The Long Road Back to “White O’Morn” Cottage

The romantic cottage, central to the movie The Quiet Man, now lies in ruins.

By June Parker Beck & Paddy McCormick, Contributors
April / May 2014

It was a magical place – a romantic place – the mythical cottage of Mary Kate and Sean Thornton that was featured in John Ford’s classic 1952 movie The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Sadly, Sean Thornton and Mary Kate’s real-life “wee humble cottage” currently lies in ruin.

There is much more to this plot of land than just a set location. Most people do not know that The Quiet Man cottage was an actual historic family home dating back to the pre-1820s. The Joyce family was still living in the cottage at the time the movie was made. This was possible because only exterior shots were done in Ireland; all interiors were shot on a soundstage in Hollywood.

Historic records show the cottage existed on the same site as far back as 1820.  Ongoing research is sure to confirm that it existed well before even that early date.

In a bid to prevent further deterioration of this internationally recognized (and cherished) Irish cottage, Paddy McCormick (formerly of Belfast and campaigner for this cause for 15 years) has begun circulating an appeal and an online petition requesting that Galway County Council add this historic location to the Council’s Register of Protected Structures. Upon learning this, Maureen O’Hara (who has been a supporter of this cause for years) signed the petition to assist all who dream for action in preserving and restoring this landmark. O’Hara said, “If you think about Duke, John Ford and all the people who worked on the picture it is sad to see the cottage in a shambles. How can anyone say anything but wonderful things about it, and see to it that it is restored for them and in their memory – and for Ireland?”

According to the Council’s official guidelines, a “Protected Structure” is: “A structure that a planning authority considers to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical point of view. It may be a building or part of a building which is of significance because of its architectural or artistic quality, or its setting, or because of its association with commercial, cultural, economic, industrial, military, political, social or religious history.”  The beauty of this is that the owner does not relinquish his property, but as historical property it would then be eligible for developmental grants and funding.

This location’s real-life history combined with its international recognition and association with The Quiet Man movie creates a very special marriage of history, culture, and art – uniquely fulfilling the Council’s criteria. It also embodies a special symbol to millions of fans throughout the world who came to love Ireland because of the film.

Sixty years have passed since that day in 1951 when John Ford brought in his cast and crew to film on location in and around the village of Cong. Since that time, tourists have flocked to the location to get even a tiny glimpse of how it all began and how it unfolded into a cinema masterpiece with Ireland as the star. We can’t disappoint these people or deny future generations of this piece of history. Maureen O’Hara herself has two words that she uses frequently at the end of many sentences “Please God.”

https://www.facebook.com/quietmancottage carries links to the petition, as well as the official Maureen O’Hara Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-OHara-Magazine-on-Facebook

10 Responses to “The Long Road Back to “White O’Morn” Cottage”

  1. PROGRESS UPDATE / SUMMARY….

    1. Galway County Council’s Draft Development Plan has now been published for review/amendment.

    2. The Draft Development Plan contains a list of PROPOSED locations for inclusion on an updated Register of Protected Structures (RPS). (Note: one of the proposed locations on the list is the famous ‘Quiet Man’ bridge).

    3. We are currently working on a formal proposal to Galway County Council requesting that ‘The Quiet Man’ cottage also be included on its revised/updated Register of Protected Structures. Our 6,000 signature petition will included as an integral part of this submission.

    4. We are working with a Grade 1 Conservation Architect in Ireland who will shortly be preparing a comprehensive report on the cottage/site/curtilage for us.

    5. We are consulting with local and national government representatives who fully support our efforts and who are generously giving us some much-valued advice and guidance.

    6. We have been in contact with the office of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – Minister Jimmy Deenihan. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht can make recommendations to a planning authority to include individual structures in the RPS. The Minister has asked to see the conservation architects report when it is complete.

    The authority, and decision itself, obviously remains at the discretion of the local elected representatives on Galway County Council.

    However, given his previous statements and public support in relation to seeing ‘The Quiet Man’ cottage restored, we are hoping Minister Deenihan will – at least – consider making such a recommendation to the Council.

    7. The deadline for the proposal of additions to the Register of Protected Structures is May 9th. It is our intention have everything prepared and submitted to Galway County Council well in advance of that deadline.

    We will keep you all posted as things progress…

    Very best wishes, and sincere thanks, to you all for your continued interest and support,
    Paddy McCormick

  2. Kathryn Williams says:

    Thank you, June and Paddy, for your untiring work, and Irish America for publishing this article. As they say, “From your lips (or computer keyboard) to God’s ears!

  3. Carol Walters says:

    I myself have signed the petition as have my family and friends once they were made aware of it.
    The cottage is a beloved part of this wonderful film, The Quiet Man and is now known even among the younger generations. My grown children and my grand children who are old enough to understand just love the movie.
    I hope the council is able to add the cottage to it’s protected list and restoration of it can be accomplished. If not, it would be a great cultural and historical loss to Ireland.

  4. Nancy says:

    It’s a shame that the owner of White O’ Morn has been allowed to let it crumble. It is an historic structure with a significant social history. Praying that the funds can be raised to rebuild it.

  5. Rob Payson says:

    Are you part of the Save The Quiet Man Cottage group on facebook? I know that they are working to get the cottage restored and talking with the owner and the Irish government to accomplish this. I think its a wonderful thing to get the cottage restored after all this time. I wasn’t sure about joining the Save The Quiet Man Cottage facebook group. but after reading your article, I certainly will be so I can support this cause!

    • Daithi says:

      The White O’Morn Foundation on Facebook is the page that Patrick and June are on. I found them a little while ago. They are just the best!!! Thanks you guys!!!

  6. Bobbi M. Baltzer-Jacobo says:

    Only a couple of weeks away from the May 9th, 2014 date! I hope that this goes through so that rebuilding and restoration can begin. This could be SO IMPORTANT to the area, and to Ireland and people of Irish descent and even old movie buffs.

    I could “see” or imagine a whole area around it with restoration of the “Quiet Man Bridge”, a theatre and museum cultural center, similar to the center that accompanies the Historic Williamsburg Virginia site, just outside Williamsburg, VA, USA. This would be a visitors center where more could be learned about the movie, the crew, the actors, the extras, etc. Since the cottage is so old…it also would have existed at the time of the Famine, and there is a history there, too. A wonderful place to enjoy, learn, take in and also create jobs for local people. A “Win-win” situation!

    Surely there are enough people of Irish background, in the USA, Canada, Australia and other countries, that would help by donating a few dollars to this project…to make it possible. AND…not to forget the “movie buff’s” that would contribute! I would! Best of Luck to the project!

  7. Eamonn Walsh says:

    Hi Paddy
    I wish to pledge my support to your campaign to have The quiet man cottage restored..
    I will gladly play the uilleann pipes at any event surrounding your campaign particularly the official opening.
    You can contact me on 087-2775317
    Keep up the great campaign
    Eamonn Walsh

  8. I think that it will great if they fix up this beautiful little thatch roof cottage. For my point of view it’s a wonderful memorie for me my mother introduced me to this movie around the age of 7 and yes she was Irish. But this movie was so romantic and fun I just loved it I ended up buying my own copy of the movie as I got older. I’ve introduced it to my daughter and grand children as well. It’s a movie that I believe will never die out.

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