Dec 032013
 

I see there’s going to be a Richard Harris film festival in Limerick soon to honour the famous Limerickman who was so proud of his home town that he adopted a British accent even though he had never set foot outside Ireland until he went to London in search of work.  In a long and indifferent career, bookended by two fine movies, Harris lived off the fawning adoration of a small town in desperate need of a hero, and that town continues to seek vicarious fame in his memory, even erecting statues to his memory.

Toe-curlingly bad statues.

 

Richard Harris

 

Every single person in Limerick played handball with Dickie Harris.  Did you know that?  It’s like the people in the GPO during Easter Week.  There is not a single person, man or woman, of a certain generation, who didn’t play handball with Dickie Harris.  Dickie was the Jahangir Khan of handball in Limerick and also, of course, racketball in Kilkee.  Jahangir Khan and Padre Pio, since he also had the power to be in two places at the same time, while drunk, playing rugby and being witty all at the same time.

Never ceasing from the recitation of his melodious poetry.

Did I mention wit?

 

richard harris

Limerick was always famous for its hams, and perhaps the best-known ham of all was Harris, international drunk and professional ne’er do-well who revelled in the lionising he received from Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show and the inevitable small-town ego-boost whenever he decided to visit Charlie St. George’s pub to patronise the locals.

I suppose he thought of himself in the same mould as Oliver Reed and Peter O’Toole — that other old thespian fraud — but an obnoxious drunk is still just a drunk, while  a well-known drunken actor is something quite different.  While your common-or-garden piss-head  might simply be ejected from the pub, a famous actor, especially from a small town, is rumbustious, unruly and turbulent, instead of simply being an overbearing bully.

Such are the dynamics of celebrity.  Such is the way small-town people prostrate themselves before those in the public eye.

The blurb for the event speaks for itself:  Richard Harris was an actor, singer, theatrical producer, film director, wit, poet and writer of immense ability.

It’s true that he acted and it’s true that he sang, after a fashion.  I don’t know what a wit is — do you?

It’s anyone’s guess what a poet is.

Harris acted in two good roles, This Sporting Life near the start of his career and The Field  at the end, although I have to say that I enjoyed his performance as the Duck of Death in Unforgiven, even if his only function was to serve as a punch-bag for Gene Hackman.

In between the two good roles is a mix of the indifferent and the downright bad, but Harris prospered at a time when Ireland was desperate for any indication that one of its own might have achieved success in any field, and of course, we can never discount the small-town hunger for reflected glory.

This is why we erected that dreadful statue to the Burger King, and why we were careful to inscribe it with the health warning that it was put there by a unanimous decision of the city council.  Heaven forfend that anyone would think there were objectors among that fine body of men and women to such a fine sculpture.

I gather that the mayor of Limerick will open the film festival by formally leaving a cake out in the rain.

 

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Elsewhere: Skip Traces

 

 

  38 Responses to “Limerick Ham — Richard Harris Film Festival”

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  1.  

    I din’t think that I can take it…

  2.  

    Gladiator?

  3.  

    BOCK, you argue your points with the best of them but in this one reads like begrudgery.
    Your opinion is doubtless shared by a few likeminded souls and your expressed doubt on his being a wit reads well, but any man who has survived in the company of fellow drunks for as long as he did can certainly attain the level of pub wit which many Irish drunks believe they too have achieved.
    Limerick to some resembles a saddened, neglected place and the erection of a shit excuse for a memorial statute was as you state but that the memory of Harris can spawn a festival at a time when nationwide the perceived mood is ‘we’re fucked’ is to be saluted regardless of the foibles of the protagonist.
    If the festival brings business enough to put a bit of life back in to a depleted city for a few days then I salute the efforts put in by those behind it.

  4.  

    Journey Man, while all money is welcome, there are plenty of festivals and events organised in Limerick that dont center around one person

    Guessing you are not a Limerick man

  5.  

    i would disagree with Journeymans over reaching “if” in regard to the automatic assumption that these well meaning gatherings must be linked to some wished and supported for an imaginary upturn in trade/ city life. Every post tiger cultural event now seems to be obliged to provide this reassurance at the expense of appropriaton. In this instance the memory of Harris is a contested and complex one for a festival even more so when the memory of his legacy is shoehorned into other agendas.

    This well- meaning in joining the cultural and commercial is evident in the listings for the Harris weekend which has more than one ” come to this bit before going to the pub for the match.” Bock asks ” Why are such Journeys associated with such Journeymen when if the celebration of the character alludes to his drink fueled ways, then there may be be better men among us to celebrate this ethos. Dare i suggest that many would prefer an event honouring the man to be called the “Richard Harris 12 Rugby Pubs of Xmas” ? This would bypass having to engage with the likes of the film “The Wild Geese” for example.

    The elephant in the room remains Harris”s film cv. It would not merit a festival elsewhere (i.e It is safe to say there will never be a Richard Burton film festival). His associated attemps at poetry and music are rarely mentioned outside their own arenas as well. Each year his legacy drifts more into the public profile he suffered yet cultivated at the end. This is evident in the a disapointing amount of “What a legend for having all that craic with drink” type posts under You Tube Clips of him being interviewed by the likes of Gay Byrne.

    So, in the absence of gravitas we are now invited to celebrate (with drink) but not to really acknowlege that Harris”s reputation is one of a “Hell raiser” who happened to act in an amount of rudimentary films in the 1970s. The denial of this obvious fact does the city no favors. It was previously evident in the fumbled approach to his statue, which, if one checks the commentary of the time, ignored public demand to represent the Harris legacy simply as a well meaning Rugby loving individual who came from Limerick.

    Lets salute effort that leans instead on the history of Limerick Cinema and cinema going. A festival on that diversity would tick all the ” bringing people into town” boxes while also shaping local history and pride as well as generating new knowledge. A short presentation of the films of Harris in this context would be more preferable.

    As a minor researcher on Harris myself i cannot see any knowledge, acedemic or historical, being generated in watching the 70s histronics of ” The Wild Geese” and being obliged to ” put a bit of life back into the town” in a Rugby showing bar afterwards. It is wrong if this became the percieved ambition of the festival as it does the well meaning of those involved no favors being put in such a position.

  6.  

    Concy Ryan here, I’m roaring laughing bock, good article as it represents views of a small number of people and I do genuinely enjoy reading it.
    Ricahrd Harris can be viewed in anyway you want as a lot of what we know about him is based on 3rd hand info and hearsay.
    I choose to view him with a bright light as supposed to looking at him with my eyes closed and I think he’s great.
    It’s a film festival, not beer fest and it’s about film in order to get things going film wise and weather you like it or not he’s the biggest film star we got and that’s as good as any excuse to hold a festival in he’s name.

  7.  

    Peevish rubbish.

  8.  

    I liked “The Wild Geese”

  9.  

    Il bet odds on that the ‘Limerick Ham ‘ Richard Harris lived more life in a day …a wet bank holiday Monday in Kilkee probably …than you have in your entire existence Bock
    But there’s always time !
    Hurlers on the ditch never can hold a Hurley .
    Best of luck to all at the festival …..great idea and here’s hoping another ‘ham’ Russell Crowe turns up soon to honour his old friend

  10.  

    Richard Harris was from Limerick?!! I didn’t even know he was Irish, the accent he had on him!

  11.  

    No your finest hour Bock. Awful rubbish.

  12.  

    John Wayne — Thank you for that impressive analysis.

  13.  

    More than welcome Bock.

  14.  

    Perhaps you could be more specific. What exactly about it is rubbish?

    While I’m at it, maybe I should invite Tom to explain why he thinks this is rubbish instead of just shouting harrumph!

    As for PJ Cup, well you get those sort of comments on every website. It’s pathetic I know, but that’s life.

  15.  

    I actually agree with Bock on this. I never met Harris but he came across as an asshole. Both my parents knew him and didn’t speak highly of him.
    A publican in West Clare told me that he was the most obnoxious bollox he ever had the displeasure to serve, he was eventually barred for taking the piss out of said publicans mother.
    He gave the usual bullshit “I’d give it all up to play once for Ireland / Munster” interviews.
    A number of years ago a friend of mine died of cancer. There was a charity event held in his name for a few years with all proceeds going to cancer charities. A sports memorabilia auction was a popular fund raiser. The organisers happened to get the Irish jerseys of Pako Fitz, Keith Wood & Peter Clohessy, the all Limerick front row for Ireland in Australia that summer. Harris was contacted several times at the Savoy in London to see if he would buy the jerseys. He never returned a call.

    Enjoy the festival.

  16.  

    I dont know what not buying a jersey has to do with anything or why anyone would want a jersey signed by an ignorant cunt like Peter Clohessy

  17.  

    “Harris was contacted several times at the Savoy in London to see if he would buy the jerseys. He never returned a call”
    Maybe he was pissed and missed the call.. Jesus who gives a fuck. I don’t think you should return a call about buying jerseys if you’re not interested.
    He’s hardly Rockafeller.

    About his career, he wasn’t bad in Harry Potter in fairness. He was pretty excellent in The Field.
    Sounds like he was an alcoholic.. He might have been ok otherwise. Lots of them are.

    The local fawning is a bit cringe worthy and his career hardly worthy of a festival. Agree with some of what Paul Tarpey said – can’t follow most of it.

  18.  

    A Limerickman with a fake English accent. I thought you meant Terry Wogan.

  19.  

    Bock
    Thanks for your well-reasoned views – they are much appreciated and all views are welcomed. As the writer of those words that you so carefully dissected, I felt compelled to reply. Also because everyone who generously gave their time to the festival for nothing (all unpaid volunteers) deserve a right to reply to the bar stool pundits pontificating from the sidelines. And I know you do like careful analysis. I would prefer to debate face to face or on radio the merits of Harris’s work or what type of festivals we should have in Limerick. If you like you can wear a scream mask and get one of those voice changer things – to preserve your identity as the scarlet pimpernel of Limerick blogging (you will forgive the slightly arch tone but a non de plume would be more understandable for a blogger based in Syria rather than in a liberal democracy)

    You ask a pertinent question “I don’t know what a wit is — do you? It’s anyone’s guess what a poet is.”

    Perhaps the best way to answer is to pose another question – “What is a blogger? And a blogger who trades in witticisms at that and a skeptic. Irony does not seem a prerequisite. I imagine the answer is one and the same – someone who feels a need to share their writing and think they have something worthy to share and I guess how the audience views that writing is what is important and the more divergent the views the better. For what is art if it doesn’t divide opinion.

    As for calling Harris a ham and Peter O’Toole – as ‘that other thespian fraud’, it is worth remembering that they have 10 Oscar nominations between them – so perhaps people more qualified than us should comment -unless you’ve a few Oscars, Tonys and Grammys jingling about in that bag of swag.

    One of your respondents Paul seems to think we are screening Wild Geese – actually we are screening This Sporting Life – which has a 100% rating in rotten tomatoes and is considered to be a classic of British cinema. As for ‘going to the pub to watch a match’. A lot of people like watching matches and don’t have sky sports and we wanted a way to keep everyone together, particularly our overseas guests and with a limited budget had little scope. As a DJ Paul, I’m sure some of your gigs take place in an establishment that serves alcohol rather than a Mormon wedding? We would love any ideas you may have.

    Another one of your respondent’s father didn’t like Richard and he even knew a barman who didn’t like him. Fair enough, like art, the character of man is often down to personal taste. It is hardly a scientific poll. Indeed as Harris himself said of Michael Caine ‘A master of inconsequence masquerading as a paragon of virtue’. Not sure why I remember that quote.

    We are ambitious for the festival and ambitious for the city. Our objective is simple for people to enjoy themselves. Limerick has been blighted by negativity and skepticism for too long and as Kennedy noted problems are solved by skeptics and cynics or from those carping from the sidelines.

    We are hoping to hold a forum for all festival organisers in the region to attend, so we would love for your respondents that have such strongly held opinions on what constitutes a worthy festival to attend. People can attempt to change things or they can stay pontificating from their bar-stools, well practiced as they are in the art of begrudgery.

    Apologies for taking some time to reply – we were quite busy with other media requests from real life journalists –such as RTE’s Drivetime, Morning Edition, TV3, Moncrief show, Irish Examiner, Irish Times, The Late Late show, The Saturday night shoe, TG4 etc. but we did eventually get to your little blog. Some of them thought it was actually a good idea and you know what people who attended enjoyed themselves for the most part.

  20.  

    Rob, you wrote this at nearly two in the morning. It’s never a good plan to fire off a broadside at an hour when we might be tired and, dare I say it, emotional. You seem to think I’m against the film festival when in fact I’m all for it. I just don’t agree with the logic of calling it after Richard Harris. It’s a pity that you detect enemy action and react so defensively.

    Go back over this post and tell me where you saw any criticism of the festival.

    I don’t believe you when you say that these views are appreciated or welcomed. The tone of your comments says the opposite.

    However, I do thank you for the memorable image of bar-stool pundits on the sidelines, neatly combining Richard’s two favourite activities: rugby and drinking.

    A blogger is someone who operates a blog. With that question answered, can you go back and say what a wit is?

    Your make an interesting implication that only certain people are qualified to comment on Harris’s hamminess. Could you please say what class of people is not entitled to comment?

    You seem to believe that a skeptic is the same thing as a cynic. This is unfortunate, since skepticism is what protects us from believing nonsense spouted by cynics.

    Meanwhile, I’ll look for a club that will allow me to place a bar stool on their sideline. Sounds like just the job.

  21.  

    Rob, before l reply to that I take it you have a stake in the event but in what capacity that is not totally clear from your post. However to re-clarify the commentary invited by the event it mainly focused on the merits of naming it after a Limerick character with such a contested history.
    No one is begrudging peoples goodwill to participate in any Limerick cultural activity but it is not a given that everybody agrees with a sanitized version of Harris as an automatic figurehead.
    Also I personally feel that in the absence of any index to gauge the commercial impact of these vernacular events on the city it is often detrimental to associate such activity with such commercial needs as false boundaries arise when it comes to reflect on the project.

    As a blow in to Limerick I have always found the shifting perspectives in the legacy of Harris in relation to the city itself fascinating and worthy of multi-directional reflection. The subject of Harris tends to facilitate hugely interesting conversations. These chats tease out many Limerick-isms in regard to issues of legacy, class, sport, and conventional culture. To be honest in my experience talk around his films feature less in these conversations.

    I spoke briefly with the invigilator of the exhibition of Harris memorabilia in the Presbyterian Church on Saturday. When I inquired about any information on the exhibit to take away she regretfully mentioned it was not possible due in part to funding issues. It is disappointing to hear this as part of the exhibits introduction and the volunteer should not have to be put in a position that they felt they had to say this. Also I felt that the exhibition it self would have benefited greatly from a design input. I mention this particular example from the festival as I felt it illustrates the fact that well meaning intentions and cultural outcomes do not automatically come together in some magical way. This is a city with many designers that could be reached out to regarding directions here.

    In fact, in the absence of cohesion, the exhibitions construction said more about Harris’s legacy as a mis-representated cypher or even a ghost than it may have intended to. I personally appreciated it on that level I might add but I feel that my response may not have been the intended response. Walking down past the statue of Harris the same day I saw it was surrounded by seated shoppers, cut out Christmas displays, where people could insert their faces, and a beautiful surreal touch in the presence of a mobile farm parked against the base of the statue. In the middle of this the statue itself, and the wished image of Harris merged with the street an actual Limerick community. The contrast with this activity and the cold room on top of the church was very much evident.

    Some things I learned from organizing such events myself is say exactly what is on offer, document everything professionally and stand over what ever knowledge is generated by the activity as a whole. Be prepared for the un-intentional associations (these sometimes are the most interesting consequences). Knowledge at the end of an event must include everything of what worked and what did not work.

    This will be my last reply on the subject on hand but I would be more that happy to attend any forum on festival organization in person and would also be available to offer any assistance regarding design issues needed for events such as the one under discussion. I can be contacted by pm on Facebook.

    P. S. The debate on the details of any event on a forum such as Bock engages the ‘off-menu’ material that is edited from conventional media. Bock has his own tone but his critical engagement on any subject is based on positivity and the ethos of support regarding Limerick citizens getting together to create diverse events. He is also available to document such events I believe.

  22.  

    Any project I’ve ever been involved with has had clearly-defined objectives and a means of establishing if those objectives were reached.

    Looking at the blurb for the Richard Harris Film Festival, it seems to have been part-funded by The Gathering from public money, and therefore one might reasonably ask how many of the diaspora it attracted. Perhaps the organisers have a rough figure for that.

    It also seems reasonable to ask how many people attended the screenings at the University of Limerick.

  23.  

    This festival was about unknown film makers having the opportunity to have their films screened on the big screen. It was not about Richard Harris, it just happened to be called after him. What the organisers decided to call the festival is irrelevant. In fact those same organisers received the small sum of €1000 from the national lottery to help fund it. For the rest, they gave their own time and energy and probably funds to get this film festival up and running. I think they deserve to be commended for that as indeed do the film makers. I don’t know if you went to see any of the films but I did. In the short film section, the standard of film making, writing and acting was excellent. These were all newcomers to the scene. They deserve to be congratulated and acknowledged for the film makers that they are. Instead you choose to give your attention to the film festival title. It was the first film festival in Limerick, the first for the organisers. Focus on the films. You need to get your act together, pardon the pun! Oh and by the way, it was on in the Belltable so I hope nobody went to U.L.

  24.  

    That’s not the rationale put forward by the organisers. And by the way, it’s advertised as being in UL.

  25.  

    I’m not going to split hairs here. The fact of the matter is that it was a film festival, call it what you want. Critique the films by all means but the title of the festival? Oh and by the way, the films I saw were screened at the Belltable…and I enjoyed every one

  26.  

    If you want to be argumentative of course, it’s possible to do that on any topic. The fact of the matter is that this was a film festival and by all means critique the films, if you went to see them. I spent a wonderful few hours at The Belltable and enjoyed a number of short films all of which were a credit to those involved. I would like to take this opportunity to thank sincerely all those involved in organising the film festival and long may it continue!

  27.  

    Sheila, I’m delighted you enjoyed the films.

    The name of the festival is not a trivial matter: that’s one opinion I think I share with the organisers.

  28.  

    And the old men playing checkers,by the trees

  29.  

    Hi Bock,

    I like the website, but this is a churlish position to adopt, no? Naming a festival after a local luminary is hardly a mortal sin, and it is certainly not unique to Limerick. (Not sure what Joyce would make of Bloomsday, for instance.) So it is perhaps rather mean to infer that naming a film festival after a character like Harris–a man who some people will admire, others will not–reflects a small town mentality that reflects badly on the city. I’m also curious about your constant querying of the term ‘wit’. It seems clear enough to me what the event organisers mean by it, and, at any rate, it is merely an advertising tag-line. Why the beef? It seems to me that events like this are a good thing, and that you’re unduly condescending to its organisers.

    And why you mention his ‘British accent’–is there such a thing?–is beyond me. What has that got to do with anything? Seems a parochial snipe from where I am sitting in Glasgow.

    All the best,
    Cian

  30.  

    Hi Cian. Thanks for the comment. I think this explains it better than anything I could say in words.

  31.  

    Now do ye see why we were pissed off that he wouldn’t buy the jerseys?

  32.  

    He He. The Irish begrudge is alive and well, love it!

    Harris has achieved some amazing things as an actor. Amazing. A Man called Horse in my favourite movie of all time. Harris was truly a unique character and a truly unique Limerick man. He lived his life to the full and broke out and explored the world through his profession. His biographies make spellbinding reading, the man pushed everything and was so ambitious, he traveled so much but always had time to come back to his own home town. He had his flaws and tempers but everyone has – but remains to this day a most fascinating and charismatic super star of the film world.

    What are you? You are just a blogger, typing from your keyboard in Limerick :-) Sorry but it’s true.

    A film festival is absolutely fantastic idea to showcase Richard Harris’s extraordinary career to a new generation, one of the finest actors from Ireland or indeed anywhere in the world. Look forward to it!

  33.  

    All opinions on Harris to be submitted to the Central Committee for approval.

  34.  

    A lot of valid points here, by yourself and others, maybe some, not so valid.

    I don’t get though what the point of the video clip is, Yes two old men have obviously had a pint or 5 but that’s hardly unusual at a match ? If the clip was to highlight a lack of regional accent then I don’t think it does that, Harris’s accent in that clip anyway sound’s very neutral to my ear’s. I don’t get why an accent is an issue at all ?

  35.  

    Let’s see 2 Grammy awards for Jonathan Livingston seagull and Gibrans The prophet.Best actor London stage Henry the Fourth.Best actor Moscow for Cromwell.Top selling single Jimmy Webb classic MacArthur Park.House breaking attendance records forCamelot. And many more accolades.Do your homework..Dickee was Limerick.Weren’t you the McCourts pr man.Friend of Dickee

  36.  

    Limerick has produced a diversity of noted sons, so enjoy your City of Culture in the limelight.

  37.  

    You’ve all missed Richard’s most valuable contribution to film history – namely, being a one-man put-Michael-Caine-in-his-place industry.

    Also, what about his carrotty-haired turn in Antonioni’s ‘The Red Desert’? I’ll bet that flummoxed the folks back home.

    Also, despite the boozer image he was smart enough to secure the rights to ‘Camelot’, tour it to death in America and use the proceeds to build up a property empire of no inconsiderable worth.

    I’ll grant you the statue is unworthy, but mercifully not in the same league as poor Lucille Ball’s statue in America – sculpted by someone who seems to have confused ‘I love Lucy’ with ‘Planet of the Apes’.

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