Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Liamhán Mór – Shark of Aran


Roinneann blag na míosa seo dhá íomhá speisialta a bhaineann le scéal an scannáin Man of Aran (1934), ceann de na mórshaothair ealaíne a spreag Árainn. Cé go n-aithnítear an stiúrthóir Robert J. Flaherty (1884-1951) mar athair na scannánaíochta faisnéise, is iomadh míchruinneas atá sa scannán, ina measc, seilg an liamháin mhóir, cleachtas a bhí gaibhte i léig in Árainn faoi 1932-3 nuair a rinneadh Man of Aran. Deirtear nár maraíodh aon liamhán gréine san oileán ó dheireadh an naoú céad déag ach d’fheil a leithéid d’eachtra go mór do phríomhsprioc Uí Fhlaithearta, b’í sin léargas a thabhairt ar an duine ag streachailt leis an nádúr, ag tabhairt dúshlán an fhiántais. Go deimhin, bhí Flaherty i ndiaidh seilg a áireamh cheana i scannán eile dá chuid, Nanook of the North (1922), seilg rosuailt. Mar sin, tugadh faoi aiséirí ar sheilg an liamháin mhóir in Árainn ar mhaithe le dráma Uí Fhlaithearta. D’aithin an comhlacht léirithe Gaumont-British Picture Corporation freisin an brabach a bhainfí as a leithéid de shuntas: mheallfadh radharcanna mórthaibhseacha na seilge siorca daoine isteach sa phictiúrlann mar a mheall Spielberg níos deireanaí lena scannán Jaws (1975).
 
Frances Flaherty a ghlac. Le caoinchead Mhuintir Uí Chonghaile.
Seo thuas grianghraf den tseilg a ghlac Frances Flaherty (1883-1972) agus a bhronn sise agus Robert ar an gCaptaen Meskill a bhí i gceannas ar an Dún Aengus, grianghraf sínithe a roinn an captaen le mo sheanmháthair Máire Gill (1913-1999) a d’oibrigh mar chócaire do na Flaitheartaigh fad is a bhí siad in Árainn. Tugann cuntóir Uí Fhlaithearta, Pat Mullen, le fios gur maraíodh roinnt mhaith liamhán agus gur baineadh ola as na haenna. Mar sin, ní fios cé acu liamhán a seoladh chuig seitheadóir agus a líonadh le stuáil. I Feabhra 1934, aistríodh liamhán mór stuáilte go Londain ar mhaithe le hiarrachtaí bholscaireachta an chomhlachta léirithe; spréach Flaherty nuair a chuala sé gur gearradh píosa as a bholg ionas go bhféadfaí é a chur i bhfuinneog an Gaumont-British Film House ar Shráid Wardour.
3 Feabhra 1934. Le caoinchead Independent Newspapers Ireland.

I ndiaidh chéadthaispeáint an scannáin i Londain ar 25 Aibreán 1934, coinníodh an liamhán i stór seitheadóra Edward Gerrard & Sons i gCamden go dtí gur chinn Gaumont-British an t-iasc a bhronnadh ar an uisceadán is sine ar domhain, Brighton Aquarium. B’í seo an tuairisc a roinn an Irish Times ar 1 Eanáir 1935:
A great fish weighing over two tons, the capture of which was included in the “Man of Aran” film, has been placed among the exhibits at the Brighton Aquarium, where it has proved an attractive addition to the specimens on view. It is to remain permanently at Brighton, and is known as the “Shark of Aran.” During the Christmas holidays many people – particularly those who had seen the film depicting its capture – have visited the aquarium to inspect the fish.
Is mar seo a chuimhníonn duine de phobal Bhrighton, Stevie Hobbs (b.1930), ar an iasc:
I know we often went to the Aquarium and I vaguely remember seeing a huge stuffed fish in the centre aisle but might not have taken much notice of it as I always wanted to see live fish. It was always dark in there and only the tanks were lit as far as I remember.
Mo léan, níl tásc ná tuairisc ar an liamhán anois. Ní heol d’uisceadán an lae inniu, Sea Life Brighton, cad a tharla dó. Tá daoine in Brighton ag fiosrú an scéil, ina measc, an banna ceoil British Sea Power, a d’eisigh albam dar teideal Man of Aran i 2009. Más eol d’aon duine cad a tharla do liamhán mór Árann, ba bhreá liom an scéal a chlos.

The Robert J. Flaherty Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York; Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Innocent Eye: the life of Robert J. Flaherty (London: W.H. Allen, 1963); Pat Mullen, Man of Aran (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1935).

*

This month’s blog shares two images relating to one of the iconic works of the Aran canon, the 1934 film Man of Aran. Although the director Robert J. Flaherty (1884-1951) is widely hailed as the ‘father of documentary’, the film has its fair share of inaccuracies, including the hunting of basking sharks, a practice that had died out well before 1932-3 when Man of Aran was being made. It is said that no basking shark had been hunted in the islands since the nineteenth century but the inclusion of such an enthralling, spectacular scene suited Flaherty’s ultimate purpose, which was to depict the eternal, elemental struggle between man and nature. Indeed, Flaherty had included hunting (for walrus) in his earlier, similarly themed film Nanook of the North (1922), so the practice of hunting for basking shark was readily revived for Flaherty’s Aran drama. The production company Gaumont-British Picture Corporation also recognized the potential appeal of a shark hunt to cinema-goers, as did Spielberg later with his 1975 film Jaws.

Here is a photograph of the shark hunt that was taken by Frances Flaherty (1883-1972), which she and her husband Robert gifted to Captain Meskill, master of the Dún Aengus, a signed photograph that the captain later gave to my grandmother Máire Gill (1913-1999) who worked as cook for the Flaherty family during their sojourn in Aran. Flaherty’s right-hand-man Pat Mullen reveals that they killed many sharks and that oil was extracted from their livers, so we cannot know if it was the pictured shark that was sent to a taxidermist to be stuffed. In February 1934, a stuffed basking shark was conveyed to London where it was employed to advertise the film. Flaherty was ‘wild’ when he heard a piece had been cut from the shark’s middle in order to fit it into the exhibition window of the Gaumont-British Film House on Wardour St.

After the London première on 25 April 1934, the shark was stored by Camden taxidermists Edward Gerrard & Sons. Gaumont-British eventually decided to donate the shark to the world’s oldest aquarium in Brighton. The Irish Times gave the following report on 1 January 1935:
A great fish weighing over two tons, the capture of which was included in the “Man of Aran” film, has been placed among the exhibits at the Brighton Aquarium, where it has proved an attractive addition to the specimens on view. It is to remain permanently at Brighton, and is known as the “Shark of Aran.” During the Christmas holidays many people – particularly those who had seen the film depicting its capture – have visited the aquarium to inspect the fish.
This is how Stevie Hobbs (b.1930) of Brighton remembers it:
I know we often went to the Aquarium and I vaguely remember seeing a huge stuffed fish in the centre aisle but might not have taken much notice of it as I always wanted to see live fish. It was always dark in there and only the tanks were lit as far as I remember.
Unfortunately, the fate of the shark is unknown. Sea Life Brighton have no record of it. People in Brighton are on the lookout, including the band British Sea Power, who coincidentally released an album entitled Man of Aran in 2009. If anyone knows what happened to the Shark of Aran, I would love to hear from you.

The Robert J. Flaherty Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York; Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Innocent Eye: the life of Robert J. Flaherty (London: W.H. Allen, 1963); Pat Mullen, Man of Aran (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1935).

2 comments:

  1. Ohhh My goodness. Its real? Is it real then very great. i thank full to you for this very good post.
    I want to know about this fish name Please

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  2. Is aoibhlinn liom do Bhlag Deirdre! Tá blag Gaeilge agam freisin, Gailge Simplí is ainm dó. Sin é an nasc má bhfuil suim agat! http://gaeilgesimpli.blogspot.ie
    Go raith Maith Agat, Eoin.

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