During a conversation with producer and director Darina Clancy, Ryan Tubridy waxed lyrical about a fishing expedition to The Blackwater but it was another man's obsession with hooking a catch that was the focus of today’s chat - Youghal-native Darina has made a film about the making of John Huston’s 1956 epic Moby Dick, in which Youghal stood in for the whaling town of New Bedford in Massachusetts in the adaptation of Melville’s classic 19th century novel.

So apart from it being her home turf, what else sparked her fascination with the movie?

"I guess growing up in Youghal I would have heard all the stories especially from my dad who was a huge film buff. We would have heard the stories over the years about Moby Dick coming to Youghal. And it was a huge event back in 1954 where buses and buses and buses of people would have been shipped in."

And Darina, having a nose for a story, approached TG4, and her film for Hollywood in Éirinn was born. So, what brought Huston, a Hollywood legend, to Youghal?

"Well, John Huston was actually very good friends with Claud Cockburn and Claud Cockburn [...] was known in Hollywood circles anyway because he’d written a few scripts. He was ostracised because of the [...] McCarthy trials. He was actually living in Youghal [...] John Huston was very good friends with him and had produced one of his plays [...]"

That’s the Youghal connection explained, but why does she think the filming had such an impact on the town?

"Now normally, with today's budgets, they would have spent a week, ten days in Youghal and then hightailed it off to the next location but they actually spent something like two months in Youghal and Moby Dick’s pub became the hub. [...] It was the biggest thing to happen to Youghal, to the southeast, for decades really"

And Youghal has pedigree when it comes to a love of cinema:

"We have the longest opened cinema in Youghal called the Regal; there was a great rivalry between the Horgan brothers’ cinema and the Regal for decades, and people would come from far and near to see the newest film."

But some of the shine was knocked off the magic of cinema – the locals watched as massive sets were built to recreate New Bedford in the 1800s, and locals were shocked that these were just façades:

"It was 1954, so people had no idea how films were made and this kind of bust the whole myth as to how it was made."

There was nothing fake about the whaling ship at the quays which brought its own challenges:

"It’s tidal there, obviously, and we also have the Blackwater so there’s a lot of silt there. [...] And council workers had to go in every morning to accommodate the keel of the Pequod and to fit the boat into the quayside, and obviously because the tide comes in twice a day and leaves twice a day the council workers would have to dig and dig and dig and sure the tide is only bringing back in the silt. You know it was one step forward two steps back scenario, but the lads were quite happy to retire into Moby Dicks as the tide came in."

And while there are wonderful archives of photos from the filming, Ryan’s attention was brought to a particular photo of a young woman, in full period costume, on the quays: Mona Brady, now Mona Hanafin, mother to politician Mary Hanafin. And Mary was on hand to share some of her mother’s memories of filming Moby Dick:

"We’d always known that my mother Mona was an extra in the film because we had those two photographs [...] which are really lovely crisp and clear black and white photos of full costume, and she often talked about it."

So how did a 19-year-old from Clonmel end up as an extra in a Hollywood epic?

"I understand that the film crew went to Clonmel where my mother lived with her family there and started recruiting. And to this day she's very proud of the fact that, 'Well, I was picked out of the crowd’. And you can see she was a very pretty young woman then, and still beautiful, let me say."

All the recruited extras were bussed to Youghal every day, fed, watered and costumed:

"They absolutely, of course, loved being a part of it. And it wasn't even so much the stars in their eyes it was just being part of such a big, big movie."

And Mona made sure she squeezed every wonderful moment out of her time on set:

"Her father was saying, ‘Where’s Mona? She can't be spending all that time down at a movie?’. Not that he didn't want her going into the movie business, but he didn't want her away from working in their own shop in Clonmel [...] But my mother had an excuse every week; ‘Oh, there was delays in the filming’ and ‘They needed more extras’. So at 19 years of age, she took the opportunity to be there and be part of the film."

No doubt she had, dare I say it, a whale of a time.

You can hear Ryan's full chat with Darina and Mary by going here.