In July 2015, the White O’Morn in Maam, Connemara, was added to the Irish Register of Protected Structures. Liam O’Raghallaigh tells the story behind Hollywood’s most famous cottage.
The search for the thatched cottage which would become ‘White O’ Morn’ in the movie The Quiet Man started long before the filming began in June, 1951. Lord Killanin, aka Michael Morris, who lived in Connemara and knew the area well, did most of the scouting.
The cottage, which sits at Teernakill North, was, with several others, on a list of properties he presented to director John Ford for consideration. Ford, who was known to be an ‘awkward’ class of a man, had to be the one to make the choice. If anyone had the temerity to recommend a location, or anything else, then that was immediately ‘out’, however right it was; so he had to be brought to see each site himself, without comment, and then he, and only he, would give the nod. There was going to be only one BOSS.
Of course, Ford chose the cottage at Teernakill, which had a stream running in front with stepping stones and a footbridge, the Failmore river running alongside and the Maamturk mountains in the background.
It was owned by local farmer, Walter Joyce, who lived there with his wife Bridget and family, and he was only too delighted to be paid money for the harmless use of his property. Apparently, Killanin suggested payment of £25 per week, which, of course, was immediately rejected by Ford, who then decreed that they should pay a princely £100 per day; untold wealth in the hungry 1950s.
One can only speculate whether Killanin, knowing Ford’s form, was playing clever to ensure Walter Joyce got a good deal?
The cottage needed a major face-lift for the movie so, after the first scene was shot, where Sean arrives at the door in Teernakill, the crew spruced it up and painted it and gave it a new thatch – front only, as the back of the cottage is not seen in the movie; new mullioned windows and a door; they also installed window boxes and flower beds and lots of roses for Sean to show off.
Now ‘real’ Quiet Man fans will have spotted that when Michaeleen and Sean first arrive at the footbridge by the cottage, there is hardly a puff of wind, and Michaeleen says, “Well, it’s a nice soft night so I think I’ll join my comrades and talk a little treason,” and yet, a minute later Sean enters the cottage in a howling gale. Now that is what you might call changeable weather; but there is a non meteorological explanation.