Turner and Kirwan of Wexford in Brooklyn

Turner and Kirwan of Wexford in Brooklyn










“So have you seen that movie yet?”

“Which one?”

“The one with all the terrific Irish brogues in it, Brooklyn”

“No, but I’m planning to go, some of it was shot in my home town, I’ve seen the ads and they show a scene with the beach where I swim.”

I am on the bike in the gym again, Forrest and I are shouting across a man pushing 200 pounds of barbell.

“Have you been to the Tal-bet Hotel?”

I have seen this man on the bike next to me many times at the gym and he’s always kept himself to himself, but now he was removing his ear buds and asking me about a Wexford hotel. At first I didn’t recognize what he was saying, but once my translator kicked in I realized he was talking about the Talbot Hotel on the Quay, a place where I attended many family weddings and reunions as a kid, and where I have performed on several occasions as an adult. It was always the fanciest hotel in town, with really fancy food and snappy service, as a kid I was particularly impressed with the soup and the bread rolls. Every major employer had an annual reunion for which you would buy a classy ticket with embossed print and curved corners, for twenty one shillings. They were almost always at the Talbot. Starched white tablecloths and napkins, long tables laid out wedding- style with more silverware than you could comprehend and, most astoundingly (even for a 12 year old), glasses were filled with complimentary cigarettes at regular intervals along the tables. After the meal a live band played – I danced with my mother.

“Yes of course I have, is that in the movie?”

“I can’t recall, but it’s in the book.”

This man has always caught my imagination; he is very scholarly looking, with a neck that appears to be stiff from many years of bearing down on a typewriter. I had decided that he might be a retired journalist, a truthful person of character. He has scholarly grey hair draped behind his ears, and horn rimmed spectacles, I may have assumed his occupation because he looks like another Irish American friend who worked for Newsday as an editor-in-chief, or maybe it was because he carried the weight of that kind of character in his earnestness. I was pleased that he was now talking to me. I miss my friend who worked for Newsday, he died about fifteen years ago from prostate cancer. I was too young to know him as a peer, but he was always decent and kind of parental. I somehow miss him and his kind. It was warming to talk to someone of his ilk.

“What did you think of the book?”

“I enjoyed it”

“How do you rate Colm Toibin as a writer?” 

He stumbled for a while, not wanting to be inaccurate in his assessment.

“I don’t know if he’s as great as one of the iconic giants”, finally he blurted out. “He’s not James Joyce!”

I was tempted to say that I didn’t think anyone was, but left it to swim in its own ambiguity instead.

It’s become topical to be Irish again, in the Village. It got worn out there for a while; no-one seemed to care much about the oul accent. But “Brooklyn” seems to have reawakened the old romanticism of the brogue. In the ads on the telly they show Curracloe Beach, a seven mile stretch of fine golden sand where I have always swam. It’s also the beach that inspired my song “Orange Coloured Sun”.

“Brooklyn” has dug up a lot of buried Irish memories. Being a Wexfordian has always been in the minority amongst Irish Americans, most of their ancestors came from the West of Ireland. But Wexford, in the “sunny south east”, is where the Irish themselves go on vacation. Now because of Colm’s story, maybe visitors will go see why. I have always loved Brooklyn, it’s the first place that I lived when I came here, some of my most valued friends come from there. Now it seems I’m married to it again.

Have you seen Brooklyn? What did you think of it. Just wondering.

There are 7 comments on Brooklyn

  • Brooklyn was really good,emotional and the best of acting.Reality always shines through. Curracloe looked well ,hard to believe tom hanks was fighting beach wars there a few years before.Saoirse ronans sister in the film is buried in crosstown cemetery at the back of my house,the dead centre of my world. Colm tobin is a fabulous writer.quite like john mcgahern who had the privaliege of teaching me in dublin in the sixties.I jest…….anyway loved the film,love wexford and coloured sun himself pierce turner is quare good too. As dave allen used to say,may your god go with you…..whovever that is…keep laughig phil

  • I didn’t even get to mention that Phil, about Saving Private Ryan being shot in Curracloe. Glad you liked Brooklyn, have to go now that I know her sister is buried with may parents in Crosstown. Love from the big smoke, Pierce

  • That should be MY parents of course.

  • I loved the movie Brooklyn and now want to read the movie. Fine acting, particularly Saoirse Ronan whose character grew so magnificently over the course of the film.
    Also love the old photo of Pierce and Larry in their shaggy daze!

  • I mean I wanna read the novel, of course! And catch Saoirse’s earlier films and Toibin’s earlier writings, perhaps while quaffing a few pints and listening to music by Pierce Turner, Larry Kirwan and such fine musicians! By the way, I thought the sound track was brilliant in Brooklyn, applying specifically Irish music carefully and to strongest effect –when the man started singing in Irish.

    • Oh we all knew you meant Novel Bill-don’t worry-I read some of my posts and can’t believe the misspelling. As for the music, it would’ve been nice if the producers/Director had looked at the Wexford musicians. Irish movies about Dublin-Cork-Galway etc tend to use music from the the West-Clare etc, which is great stuff-but this was a rarity-set partly in Wexford-Larry and I were pioneers of giving profile to the Wexford diaspora-I can’t imagine something like “How it Shone” being out of place for instance, Colm wouldn’t have much say perhaps. It would be a huge leg up, and maybe, just maybe Colm might not have connected to N.Y.but for 2 young Wexfordians coming here without an arse in their pants or a relative to stay with.

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(c) Pierce Turner, 2019