Monthly Archives: January 2016

Kevin McClory – James Bond Producer

Kevin McClory

Kevin McClory

It’s a long way from Dun Laoghaire to Hollywood and one that Kevin McClory made with distinction. For the man who produced the movie Thunderball it was quite a journey and one that he almost did not make.

McClory was born on 8th June 1924 to Thomas and Alice McClory who were both actors and theatre producers. They lived on Mellifont Avenue, Dun Laoghaire and he learned about acting as the youngest member of his parents’ theatre company. It travelled throughout Ireland and Britain but the outbreak of World War II brought a stop to that.

Home

Home

He spent the early war years as a radio officer on the Norwegian tanker Stigstad and it was torpedoed and sunk on 21st February 1943. He and others got into a life raft and survived dreadful conditions for two weeks, as they drifted 600 miles before being rescued and taken to a hospital in Kerry. McClory suffered frostbite and lost the ability to speak for over a year, after which he was left with a stammer.

Dun Laoghaire

Dun Laoghaire

After the war he worked at Shepperton Studios (Middlesex) as a location manager before moving up the ladder as Assistant to John Huston on The African Queen (1951) and Assistant Director on Moby Dick (1956). He stock was rising and he was asked to act as Assistant Producer on Mike Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days (1956). The film took almost three years to make and was shot in such colourful places as Paris, Kuwait, Karachi, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Hong Kong. At this time he was dating Elizabeth Taylor who had split from her husband Michael Wilding. However, Todd asked Kevin for an introduction and after a whirlwind romance Todd and Taylor were married. Wanting to get away from Hollywood Kevin led a team of 26 men in 5 vehicles around the world from Detroit-to-Detroit. It took 104 days and he made a movie of the experience ‘One Road’ which was sponsored by Ford Motor Company.

Thunderball

Thunderball

In 1959 he met Ian Fleming who asked him to read his James Bond books. He did, and told Fleming that the character ‘jumped off the page’ although he needed some modifications to make him interesting for a screenplay. He, Fleming and Jack Whittingham worked on the new project (Thunderball) until Fleming dropped out due to other commitments. However, when Fleming published the book without recognising the others’ work they sued. And won. And in December 1965 Thunderball was released and it is still the most financially successful of the James Bond series. Later, he was involved with the movie Never Say Never Again when Sean Connery returned in  his most famous role (for the last time) in the 1983.

Kevin lived between Nassau and Ireland, and he died in St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin on 20th November, 2006 – he was 82.

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St Stephen’s Church – The Pepper Canister

St Stephen's Church

St Stephen’s Church

Nicknames are something that Dubliners are good at handing out, usually to friends and acquaintances, but it is rare that buildings are so honoured. So, I was really looking forward to visiting St Stephen’s Church, a place that I had passed many times but never entered and, like most people, called ‘The Pepper Canister’.

By the early 1800s with the city spreading out into new suburbs there was a need for a church to serve the growing community beyond Merrion Square. The Earl of Pembroke, a significant local landowner, gave the site for the church for free and an additional £700. And he, like many other parishioners, had their family pew, indicated by a brass nameplate. Over the years some of the well-known church attendees included; the poet and Senator WB Yeats, writer Sheridan La Fanu, a young Duke of Wellington, wit and dramatist Oscar Wilde and Thomas Davis who founded The Nation newspaper and wrote the ballad  A Nation Once Again. The church’s address is Mount Street Crescent and this too has an interesting story to tell. The word mount is derived from the mound at the junction of Baggot Street and Fitzwilliam Street where a gallows once stood!

Pembroke Family Pew

Pembroke Family Pew

St Stephen’s was one of the last Georgian churches built in Dublin and was designed by John Bowden who also responsible for the church of St Philip & St James, Booterstown. Sadly, he died during construction and the work was completed by Joseph Welland. It was consecrated by the Archbishop of Dublin, William Magee on 5th December 1824 and the final cost was £5,169!

The original building was rectangular and the colourful apse (East end) was added in 1852. But it is the front (West end) that is the most attractive and giving an unbroken view, across Merrion Square south side, to Leinster House. It is a beautifully realised feature, unchanged in almost two centuries. The cupola at the top of the church is a model of the Choregos of Lysicrates in Athens and where we get the familiar nickname.

Apse

Apse

Inside, there are wonderful stained glass windows which were not original features but added in Victorian times. A piece by the renowned Beatrice Elvery and another in honour of Dr Joliffe Tufnell, a former President of the College of Surgeons, look great in the sunlight. The organ dates from the 1750s and the carved rosewood pulpit is particularly attractive. Upstairs I noted a plaque in honour of Captain Charles King a man who survived the Battle of Balaclava (1854). I definitely hadn’t been expecting that. Wonderful.

Downstairs

Downstairs

 

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Photograph of the Year

What is your photograph of the year? Well, that’s something I’ve seen a lot of recently as newspapers, magazines and websites select their favourites. It’s a difficult job, but in my case it was an easy one. My debut novel MARKED OFF was launched in February (2015) and when  a friend sent me this photograph it really made my day….and year. Ad astra!

 

MARKED OFF - a bestseller!

MARKED OFF – a bestseller!

 

 

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Pitch Drop Experiment – It takes time…

My friend had told me, jokingly, not to hold my breath and I didn’t. Looking at the Pitch Drop experiment in Trinity College recently all I could do was laugh, for if I was to see the drop drip I would have to wait about ten years. Holding my breath was out of the question, but the experiment, quirky as it is, did certainly hold my attention.

Trinity College

Trinity College

The Pitch Drop experiment was setup in October 1944 by a colleague of Nobel laureate Sir Ernest Walton, and remained unmonitored for decades on a shelf in a lecture hall where it gathered dust. The experiment was to measure the viscosity (thickness) of pitch, and when in 2013 scientists noticed that a drop had formed the glass jar in which the experiment was housed was moved and a webcam setup to record the ‘drop’. And it came to pass that on 11th July 2013 at 5pm the first ever ‘drop’ was recorded. Based on analysis of the experiment the scientists in Trinity College estimated the viscosity of the pitch to be about two million times that of honey, and about twenty billion times the viscosity of water.

THE experiment

THE experiment

A similar experiment was setup in 1927 by Professor Thomas Parnell in the University of Queensland (Brisbane) and this is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as the longest, continuously running laboratory experiment. And in 2006 Parnell and current Professor, John Mainstone, were awarded the Ig Noble Prize in Physics for the experiment!

After waiting for a black drop that never came my friend and I went to a well-known, local hostelry where the black drops, thankfully, dropped much more quickly. Slainte.

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