This year, the Warp & Weft of Heritage Weekend celebrates the rich cultural history and folklore of Donegal and how it provided the spark of inspiration to, Disney Screenwriter, Lawrence Edward Watkin.
In 1945, Walt Disney planned to make a film about leprechauns and set about visiting Ireland in 1946 to develop an “Irish story”. By spring 1947, he had hired Lawrence Edward (Larry) Watkin, as the film’s screenwriter.
Though Watkin adapted the literary fairy tales of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh “Darby O’Gill & the Good People” as the basis of the screenplay, it still needed a more authentic treatment.
In the summer of 1947 Disney sent Larry Watkin to Ireland on a research trip designed by Seamus Delargy, director of the Irish Folklore Commission. Part of the itinerary brought him to the village of Ardara, Co. Donegal where he was guided by folklore collector and schoolteacher, Patrick J. McGill (locally known as “Wee Paddy”).
McGill brought Watkin around the area by bicycle, visiting local people and archaeological sites and recounted to him the wonderful stories, legends and myths which he had been collecting from the older generation.
It is said that, during his stay, the renowned fiddler, tinsmith and storyteller, Jimmy O’Rourke made a profound impression on Watkin. Notably, when Watkin returned to California, he changed Darby’s character in the screenplay from a dancer to a fiddler.
Our weekend’s talks and activities will delve into the story behind the film and explore the fact, fiction and folklore behind the film, Watkin’s visit to Ardara in 1947 and cover the film’s premiere in 1959.