The Luck of the Irish

The Luck of the Irish

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Antrim, Glynn, Tyrone




circa 12/1935 (GB release); circa 14/02/1936 (Irish release); 15/01/1936 (USA release)


76min 24sec




35mm, film

black and white


National Film and Television Archive


British Film Institute, Richard Hayward Estate

Rights Holder

British Film Institute, Richard Hayward Estate

It is illegal to download, copy, print or otherwise utilise in any other form this material, without written consent from the copyright holder.


The story of an Irishman's attempts to save his ancestral home through the fortunes of his racehorse.


The Luck of The Irish was proudly proclaimed as ‘Ulster’s First Feature Film’. In fact invitations to the premiere of the event made much of its, “authentic Ulster songs, Ulster humour, Ulster scenery and all-Ulster cast”. And, indeed, the film seeks to establish its Ulster credentials in the very earliest scenes. There are expansive shots of Northern Ireland’s countryside and throughout the film such scenic, or tourist locations, are showcased in the most flattering manner possible. Meanwhile, the first interior scene takes place within Widow Whistler’s shop, a shop which has a ‘Buy Ulster Goods’ banner on its front door. And then, the camera slowly pans around, lingering on and framing an assortment of Northern Irish goods, be it a copy of the Belfast Telegraph, or C&C lemonade.

However, whilst The Luck of The Irish and much of Hayward’s subsequent work is at pains to flaunt an image of Ulster as distinct from the rest of Ireland, he tends to fall back upon the same symbolism, settings, conventions and concepts of idealised rural life, which are familiar from his southern contemporaries depictions of Ireland as the ‘old country’. Therefore Hayward’s vision of Ulster is tainted by association with the pre-existing concepts of Cultural Nationalism and Celtic Mysticism. Indeed publicists for the film, who were keen that neither the indigenous population, nor the vast Anglo-American audience be alienated, sought to play up both the film’s local Ulster characteristics and the parallels with typically romantic images of Ireland. They issued accompanying materials on both the ‘Story of Ulster Life’ and the ‘Romantic comedy of Irish Life’. Ultimately, then, despite the Ulster-centric detail and use of local dialect, it could be argued that Hayward failed to establish a unique national identity in Northern Irish cinema.

Shot List

'An Irish country gentleman, Sir Brian O'Neill, pawns his castle in the hope of victory for his horse in the Grand National Steeplechase. The horse is ridden by his son, Derek, who is in love with Eileen O'Donnell. The horse wins, but it is subsequently disqualified. Bailiffs take possession of the castle at once, and efforts by a servant to retrieve the family fortune are unsuccessful. A few hours before the O'Neills are due to be evicted, an American appears and buys the horse at a price which enables Sir Brian to pay his debts and Derek to marry Eileen.(Adapted from the Monthly FIlm Bulletin 1935:197)' Source: Kevin Rockett, The Irish Filmography, Dublin, Red Mountain Press, 1996.


Cast - Richard Hayward - Sam Mulhern; Kay Walsh - Eileen O'Donnell; Niall MacGinnis - Derek O'Neill; Jimmy Mageen (Sir Brian O'Neill); R H MacCanless (Gavin Grogan; Charles Fagan - Sergeant Doyle; Harold Griffin - Simon Reid; Charlotte Tedie - Hortense O'Neill; Nan Cullen - Widow Whistler; John M Henderson - Sir Richard O'Donnell; Meta Grainger - Lady O'Donnell; Production Company - Crusade Films; Producer - Richard Hayward, Donovan Pedelty; Director / screenplay - Donovan Pedalty from a novel by Victor Haddick; Cameraperson - Jack Wilson; Songs sung by Richard Hayward; Poem - 'Ban Cnuic Eireann O'; GB Distributor - Paramount-British.


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