RTE Television

Great Irish Journeys

New four-part documetary series about famous Irish journeys and the impact they have had on the island and its people.

Taking the journeys are: Grainne Seoige; who will follow in the footsteps of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Gavan Duffy; Evelyn O'Rourke traces the march from West Cork to Leitrim in the depths of winter in one of the last great stories of Gaelic Ireland; Dithi O'S looks at the story of the Great Military Road; and John Creedon retraces Michael Collins' final 24 hours and his journey into West Cork that fateful day.


Episode One: Carlyle, Duffy & the Great Famine (1849)

In July 1849 Scottish writer and staunch Unionist Thomas Carlyle came to Ireland at the invitation of his friend, nationalist Charles Gavan Duffy. Together this unlikely couple spent a month touring Ireland. In this documentary Grainne Seoige follows in their footsteps and using Carlyle's book as a guide, sets out to see what can be leant about the famine by looking at the tragedy from the perspective of the ruling elite.

Episode 2: O'Sullivan Beara & the March to Oblivion

This forced march from West Cork to Leitrim in the depths of winter is one of the last great stories of Gaelic Ireland. This wasn't the movement of an army, rather the flight of 1,000 men, women and children running for their lives from the English and being harassed en route by the Irish. A thousand people started the journey, 35 arrived at their destination 14 days later. Over four centuries later Evelyn O'Rourke walks the route and finds that the story doesn't end in Leitrim, but rather in the Court of Philip of Spain.

Evelyn says: 'I set out on this journey to remind everyone of the brave and epic story of this one man, Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare. Donal Cam was the last of the Gaelic Chieftains, and his adventures as he led his people through the countryside in the bitter cold of January 1603 is the stuff of legends. He crossed mountains, bogs and even the river Shannon in boats made at the water's edge, all while being purused by English and Irish enemies. I am in awe of O'Sullivan Beare and his people and I loved every minute of the epic tales, stunning scenery and welcoming locals that I encountered along the way. I did it in warm, comfortable wet weather gear while Donal Cam's people did it in bare feet in winter - it truly was a Great Irish Journey.'

Episode 3: Michael Collins' Last Day

The last 24 hours in the life of Michael Collins tells us so much about the man and in this film RT Radio 1 broadcaster John Creedon sets out to retrace the Big Fellow's journey into West Cork that fateful day. En route John meets a variety of historians who explain what happened and where and he also talks to Collins' grand-niece. Was his visit to Cork a premature victory parade and if so, how much of what happened did Collins bring on himself?

John says: 'I think a lot of people will find this programme interesting. We reassembled the entire convoy from that morning on August 22, 1922 - the outrider, the troop-carrier with soldiers on board - and we have the actual armoured car that was used on the day.'

Episode 4: Presenter: Daithi S

As the seat of British power historically Dublin was the place through where Irish rebels had to escape. There are two tales here: the first is of Red Hugh O'Donnell who escaped from Dublin Castle, not once but twice; the second time in 1592 travelling along the Poddle river, into the Liffey and from there into the Wicklow mountains.

Just over a century later in the wake of the 1798 rebellion, the Wicklow mountains again proved a hiding place for the Irish. This time though the Empire wasn't going to fail. It would build a road to open access to the mountain and to get their hands on one of the last remaining leaders Michael Dwyer. The road took nine years to build, so it is also the story of Robert Emmet's rising.

The Military Road ensured that Dwyer was eventually captured, and sent to Van Diemen's Land, but his story and the story of the road doesn't even end there.

Great Irish Journeys
  • RT One, Sunday, 6.30pm