Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) - full transcript

A young boy tells the story of growing up in a fatherless home with his unmarried mother and four spinster aunts in 1930's Ireland. Each of the five women, different from the other in temperament and capability, is the emotional support system, although at times reluctantly, for each other, with the eldest assuming the role of a 'somewhat meddling' overseer. But then into this comes an elderly brother, a priest too senile to perform his clerical functions, who has "come home to die" after a lifetime in Africa; as well, there also arrives the boy's father, riding up on a motorcycle, only to announce that he's on his way to Spain to fight against Franco. Nevertheless, life goes on for the five sisters, although undeniably affected by the presence of the two men, they continue to cope as a close-knit unit... until something happens that disrupts the very fabric of that cohesiveness beyond repair.

When I cast my mind back
to that summer of 1936...

different kinds of memories
offer themselves to me.

We got our first wireless set
that summer.

Well, a sort of a set.

And it obsessed us.

We called it Lugh" after
the old pagan god of the harvest.

His festival was Lughnasa,
a time of music and dance.

Then my mother's brother,
my Uncle Jack...

came home from Africa for
the first time in 25 years.

He was the oldest of the family,
and the only boy.

That was my mother.

She was the baby
of the family.

I'm gonna throw
this old cracked thing out.

You are not.
I broke it.

The only way to avoid seven years'
bad luck is to keep usin' it.

You know, I think I might
just start to wear lipstick.

Steady on there. Today, it's lipstick.
Tomorrow it's the gin bottle.

Oh, dear, a wild Woodbine.
It's better than any man.

Not that I'd know.

Better not let Kate
hear that kind of chat.

If Aunt Maggie smoked
and took life lightly...

Aunt Kate did not.

She was a schoolteacher,
and a strict one.

- What are you doing up there?
- I'm putting the finishing touches on.

- You should've done that yesterday.
- I want it to look nice for Jack.

Get yourself ready. Do you want
the whole place laughing at us?

- I've only to put on a skirt.
- Do so, please.

And do something with your hair
as well. Where's Rose?

Feeding the chickens.

I suppose she looks like
a mad woman as well.

My mother used to whisper,
"Agnes is deep. "

She says little.

That's Aunt Rose.
Rose was a bit slow.

Simple. "
That's the word we used.

Mussolini will be there
with his airplanes in the air

Will you come to Abyssinia
Will you come

Mussolini is many miles away.

Father Jack, your only brother,
will be in Ballybeg in one hour.

Would you please
make yourself presentable?

Don't mind her.
She's only an old gander.


And so we set out
to meet my Uncle Jack.

Little did I know it...

child as I was...

that this was the beginning
of things changing.

Changing so quickly.
Too quickly.

- Excited?
- I am, Mammy.

Come on.

Good day, Miss Mundy.

Well, Miss Mundy.
Big day for youse all.

Father Jack,
back at long last.

It is indeed.
Thank you very much.

Something for youse all
to be proud of.

All that time amongst the lepers.
The man's a saint.

Thank you. Bus'll be in soon.
If you'll excuse us.

Give him our best wishes.

Give him your arse
and say it's parsley.

That's enough, Margaret,
thank you very much.

- Look, it's Danny Bradley.
- Hold your tongue.

Will I run over to say hello?

You'll stay right here
beside me.

He's a scut.

With three children.
The whole town knows it.

You're a fine one to talk,
Christina Mundy.

You're jealous!

That's what's wrong with
the whole lot of youse!

- You're jealous of me!
- Just try to control yourself, please.

His wife left him.
She did the runner.

She may have had her reasons.

It's coming!
The bus, it's coming!

Oh, Jack.
Oh, thank God, Jack.

Ballybeg. Ten minutes.


- Is this...
- Ballybeg.

- Is this the name of where...
- It's where you come from.

- Am I home?
- You're home, Jack.

Mother is dead.

She's not here.
She's dead.

Come on.
Come and say hello to Maggie.

- Maggie.
- He's an old man, Mammy.

Come on, Michael.

Stop it, Aunt Maggie.

His sisters loved Jack
with all their hearts...

sending what pennies they had
to him in Africa.

Rose and Agnes knitting gloves
for a living.

All the women trying
to keep house and home together.

A miracle.

That's no miracle.
It is science.

It's not science.
It's the god of Lughnasa.

Pagan nonsense celebrating
the feast of Lughnasa.

This is the month of August, the feast
of Our Lady's Assumption Into Heaven.

A goddess, rising through
the sky and the stars...

in search for her dear son.

Where is Michael's father?

He's not here.

They're not married.

So Michael is a love child.

A son conceived in love.

I'm glad you have a child
conceived in love.

He's not mine.
He's Christina's.

- He's mine.
- All of you.

You all love him.
He belongs to all of you.

Michael, go outside and play.

Danny Bradley
wants to marry me.

He wants to take me up to
the back hills one day to Lough Anna.

Will you marry us?

Danny Bradley can't marry you.
He's married already.

You know that.

But he loves me, and I love him.

- And his wife's left him.
- That's not our business.

You must be tired.
Have a wee sleep before you eat.

- It'll build up an appetite.
- In Africa, we sleep and dream.

- In the dream, we sacrifice to the gods.
- This is not Africa.

This is Ballybeg.
Your home.

This is Donegal.
This is Ireland.

Another miracle.

It is not a miracle.
It is science.

It's music.
Dance with me, Mother.

No... Look, turn that off.
I'll do it myself.

I am not your mother.

I am Kate, your eldest sister, and
you're going to bed for a short while.

The only miracles
are those God ordains.

And you are an ordained priest.
You do not dance.

Maggie, see Jack to his rest,
if you please.

My rest, yeah.

Many women in Africa have love children.
And they are loved.

- As they are here.
- Yes, as they are here.

I didn't mean to upset you.

I would like you all
to have a love child.

His Holiness, the Pope, would have
something to say against that.

Yes, he would.

But he's never lived in Africa.

I'll put you to your bed.
You need the rest.

If His Holiness, the Pope,
doesn't fancy his stay in Africa...

I could take his place.

The sisters here will tell ya I've been
looking for a beautiful black man.

Come on, Jack. Bed.

A wee rest.

I have to laugh at you,
Christina Mundy.

Whenever you say you've to laugh at me,
I know you're not laughing.

And I've to say I have
to laugh at you, Rose Mundy.

A brother home
from the foreign missions.

A priest,
confronted by one sister...

who's given birth
to an illegitimate child.

And Rose...

talkin' about men
separated from their wives.

I was talkin' about Danny Bradley.

He loves me, Kate!


Gander! Gander!

That's what you're called
in your classroom.

You're not even a woman.
You're called a gander.

I am woman enough
to know what modesty is.

A woman's modesty is everything.

Thank you, Okawa.

Who is Okawa?

You are.

She's right, you know. Kate's right.
I brought shame on this family.

- Deep shame.
- You brought Michael to this family.

And he is not shame.
You know that, as does Kate.

What's wrong with Jack?

- His nerves.
- Oh, aye, nerves.

We were so proud of him.

To have a priest in the family was
a great honor. Poor Jack. God help him.

Maybe Michael will become a priest.


You could love Uganda, Maggie.

As I lie myself down to sleep...

I pray to God my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake...

I pray to God my soul to take.

I think I've come home to die.

Jesus, don't.
We can't afford to bury ya.

I'm glad you're home.

Watch yourself.

- Go to sleep.
- Aye.

Watch yourself.
Go to sleep, Okawa.

What does Okawa mean?

Okawa is my houseboy
in Uganda.

He is Okawa.

Damn it. I thought
it was Swahili for "gorgeous."

Am I called 'the gander"?

No, Aunt Kate.

Who calls me "'the gander"?

The big fellas do.

And you let 'em.

Why have you no friends?

You're another gander.

Aren't you, son?

I've brought you this.
I was saving it for your birth day...

but you might as well have it now.

Do you know how it goes?

Here. You pump it.

Push it down.
Push it.

That's it.

Sacred Heart of Jesus!
I don't believe it.

What's wrong?

That's him. That's Christina's man!
That's Gerry.

It's Gerry Evans!

He's not coming in this house.

When are we gonna get a decent mirror
to see ourselves in?

- You can see enough to do you.
- You're not going to meet that blaggard!

I couldn't look that man
in the face.

I hate him.
I hate him!

Look at my hands shakin'.

You're not shaking.
You're perfectly calm.

You're looking beautiful.
And what you're gonna do is this:

You'll meet him outside. Tell him
that his son is healthy and happy.

- Then you'll send him packing.
- No.

He can stay the night.

In the shed, outside.


Come on.

Oh, look at her.

Hello, Chrissie.

Hello, Gerry.

How have you been
over the past 18 months?

Eighteen? Never.

March, last year.
March the sixth.

Where does the time go?

- Well, you're here now.
- Here I am.

Wonderful luck.

Is that himself?

- He's a big boy.
- He's grown well.

- Does he like school?
- He doesn't say much.

Like his Aunt Kate.

Yes, indeed.

Will someone please tell me
what they have to say to each other?

He's Michael's father.

That's a responsibility
never burdened Mr. Evans.

A commercial traveler called in
to Kate's school last Easter.

Met you in Dublin.
Had some stupid story...

about you givin'
dancing lessons up there.

He was right.

- He was not.
- Cross the old ticker.

All last winter.

Strictly ballroom.

Millions of pupils.

- Everybody wants to dance.
- Millions of pupils?

I'm a liar. Fifty-one.

When the good weather came,
they all drifted away.

You're the one should've been
giving dance lessons.

You were far better
than me, remember?

'Twas on the Isle of Capri
that he found her

Beneath the shade
of an old walnut tree

And, oh, how the flowers
bloomed around her

Where they met
on the Isle of Capri

All he could ever do was dance.

Her whole face alters
when she's happy.

Though he left
with the tide in the morning

Still his heart's
in the Isle of Capri

What brings you
to these parts now?

To say good-bye.

Where are you heading for?

- You'd like to know?
- I would.

Want a spin on this bike?

- I might.
- Get on.

- See you soon, Michael.
- Bye, son.

Where are you going next?

You'll never believe this.

I'm gonna do a spot of fighting.

- What do you know about fightin'?
- I'm a Welshman. We're always fighting.

You're as soft as butter.

- I'm going off to Spain.
- Spain?

The International Brigade.
I'm joining up.

I'm gonna fight against Franco.

There's a company leaves
in a couple of weeks.

I'm gonna fight for democracy.

Democracy? Spain?
What do you know about Spain?

A little.

Enough, maybe.

- Why exactly are you going to Spain?
- Because I want to do something.

I want to do anything...
with my life.

I have to.

Well, then do it.

"'Then do it."

"Then do it!"

- Morning, Miss Mundy.
- Morning.

Thank you, Austin.

Thank you, Mrs. Mac.

Mrs. McLoughlin.
And how are you?

I'm well. I've brought
some more wool for Agnes and Rose.

This might be the last batch
I give 'em, God help us all.

Dear me, Vera.
What's wrong?

Isn't Agnes the quickest knitter
in Ballybeg?

You've not heard the word?

There's a woolen factory opening up
in Donegal Town, they say.

It'll be all machine knittin'
from now on.

- Machines? A factory?
- That's right.

You're a lucky woman
to have your teachin' job.

There's our Sophia waving to you.
You were her favorite teacher.

That old bitch, the gander.

Sophia always knew her own mind.

Who are you tellin'?

Didn't she walk into the house a week
ago and told me she was gettin' married.

Well, she's barely 16.

Married. And I'll let her.

She'll need a man to keep her.

I'll say nothin' to Agnes
about the factory.

- Good morning.
- Good morning.

- Two pounds of flour.
- Thank you.

I better not forget
the cigarettes...

or a certain sister of mine
will not speak to me for a week.

Maggie enjoys her wild Woodbine.

- Does she not?
- She does indeed.

But God forgive me, I do not think
it's a nice habit in a woman.

Harmless enough pleasure.
Now, have you got everything?

Sugar, salt, tapioca... I'm sorry,
the tapioca's gone up a penny.

That's hardly your fault.

Your battery,
that's come in from Letterkenny.

Oh, yes. Not much good it'll do
in that old set, though.

Will you be going to
the harvest dance this year?

- I hardly think so at my age.
- But you should.

It'll be supreme this year.

Will it be?

Will it really be supreme?
Tea, soap, Indian meal, jelly.

- How much do I owe you?
- Two and six.

Mr. Bradley.

Miss Mundy.
How are you?

Very well.
And how are you and yours?

How is your wife?

- I no longer have a wife.
- I hadn't heard she passed away.

She's gone away... to England.

- You should have followed her there.
- Ten Woodbine.

All kinds of things can happen
to a body in England.

They're not respectable people there
as we are in Ballybeg.

Will your sisters be going
to the dance?

Agnes and Rose.
Will they go?

If you'll excuse me, I have a family
and responsibilities to attend to.

Will you be going yourself
to the harvest dance?

Will you be looking
for a new wife?

Do you know what you are?
A dirty, cruel little bitch.

Father Carlin.

- Miss Mundy.
- I'm so glad you asked to see me.

Father Jack is waiting
to meet up with you soon.

I didn't ask to see you
about your brother.

Well, I was just wonderin'
when you would call out to see him.

- He's not well, I hear.
- He's just grand, thank God.

Good feeding, plenty of exercise,
he'll be right as rain.

The rain.
Aye, that's what he needs.


The sun in Africa, you know...

it would affect anybody.

He needs the rain.
That'll heal him.

- He's going to say Mass soon.
- I don't think so.

When he's fit to see people,
I'll call out.

He's fit to see anybody.

- Jack is...
- Not well.

I know.
I know everything about him.

- There is nothin' to know.
- I think there is. So do you.

You're a bright enough woman.
You must notice things.

Haven't you noticed the numbers
in the school are falling?

- To be honest, I haven't.
- Well, they have.

They have.

So I might need
to let a teacher go.

Of course,
that could be all for the best.

I'm sure you could do
with the extra time...

now you have Father Jack
on your hands.

Good-bye to you now.

But I am a teacher.

What'll I do
if I stop teaching?

What'II become of us?

Good day to you, ma'am.

That's a fine hat.

It was a present
from the District Commissioner.

He's a stubborn man.
He and I fight a lot, but I like him.

He calls me "The Irish Outcast."

When I was leaving,
he gave me a present...

of the last governor's
ceremonial hat.

Well, you must show it to Michael.

I will later.

He's watching you.
He's shy of you.

He'll grow out of it.

Are you gonna be here long enough
to give him time to grow out of it?

I'm gonna buy him a bike.

You trying to break the child's heart?
A bike's what he's always wanted.

- I will buy him a bike.
- Don't lie to him.

Can I talk to you?

I need to ask you a question.
Will you answer me?

I'll ask you anyway.
What color do you like best?

Black or blue?

I need to know if I should buy you
a black or a blue bike.


Does Mr. Evans ever wonder how
Christina clothes and feeds Michael?

Does he ask her?
Does Mr. Evans care?

Beasts of the field have more concern
for their young than that creature has.

Do you ever listen to yourself?

You are such a damned,
righteous bitch!

And his name is Gerry.

Don't I know his name is Gerry.

What am I calling him, Saint Patrick?
What was that all about?

Who's to say?

'Twas on the Isle of Capri
that he found her

Beneath the shade
of the old walnut tree

Oh, I can still see
the flowers blooming 'round her

As they met on the Isle of Capri

If you knew your prayers as well
as you knew those old pagan songs...

I am a righteous bitch,
aren't I?

She was as sweet
as a rose at the dawning

But somehow fate
hadn't meant it to be

And as he sailed
with the tide in the morning

Still his heart's
in the Isle of Capri

- What have you got to sing about?
- Just practicing the fox-trot.

- Where is Gerry?
- He's with Michael.

What are they doing?

His daddy's giving him a ride
on his motorbike.


He'll kill the child!

He'll be all right.
He's with his daddy.

What's wrong? Don't you like
your daddy to kiss you?

- Are you really my daddy?
- You know I am.

You've seen me five or six times.
Don't you remember?

- I've never seen you before this week.
- Yes, you have.

Five or six times.
You've forgotten.

Maybe so.

Look at those strange animals
over there.

What's strange about them?

They've got horns in
the middle of their foreheads.

Do you think they might be unicorns?

Unicorns are horses. Those are sheep.
And there's no horns there.

Can we go home now?
I'm hungry.

All right.

- What was that for?
- I don't know.

I do beg your pardon.

My mind was...

- What are those?
- They're roses. Flowers.

They won't bite ya.
They're just flowers.

Yes, flowers.

We'll put some in your room
for you with a card...

under them saying "roses"
so you know what they are.

Have you taken your medicine yet?

You're supposed to take it
three times a day, you know that.

One of our priests
took too much quinine.

He was addicted.
He almost died.

The local medicine man
made him better.

There's a strange white bird
on my windowsill.

That's Rosie's pet rooster.

- Keep away from that thing.
- One day I'm gonna wring its neck.

In Africa,
when we want to please spirits...

we kill a rooster or a small goat.

What's the word for that called?

A ritual...

No, ceremony. That's the word
I was searching for.

I'm glad I got that.

Spirits, medicine men,
ritual sacrifices.

His head's completely turned.

Here's a special bit for you.

Are youse not hungry?

- Is Gerry eatin' with us?
- He is, I'm sure.

We've only a few eggs left
and some apples.

We'll manage.

You can smell tea
being made a mile away.

I can indeed. I saw Michael and Gerry
on the motorbike.

I'm gonna ask Gerry
to give me a run on it.

You'll do no such thing.
And why aren't they home yet?

They'll be safe.

Is Gerry all right
staying in the barn?

- He's safe staying there.
- Nobody's safe these days.

Somebody's landed Austin Morgan.

He's getting married next month.

Our Kate was very mad
about Austin Morgan. Look at her.

She's blushin'.

- That's enough.
- And Sofia McLoughlin.

She's to be married.

That'll put an end
to her dancin' days.

The other day she had the cheek to ask
if I were going to the harvest dance.

She said it would be
supreme this year.

Supreme. Think I'm gettin'
corns on this foot.

Hope to God I don't end up crippled
like poor Mother, may she rest in peace.

Wouldn't it be a good one
if we all went?

- Went where?
- To the harvest dance.

All dressed up.
I think we should all go.

Have you no idea
what it will be like?

Crawling with cheeky young brats
that I taught years ago.

I'm game.

- You know how I love dancing.
- You have an eight-year-old child.

- Have you forgotten that?
- You can wear that green dress of mine.

You've the figure for it, and it
brings out the color of your eyes.

And you look great in that cotton dress
you got for confirmation last year.

You're beautiful in it.

This is silly talk.
We can't. How can we?

Will you go with us?

- Will Maggie what? Try and stop me.
- Oh, God, Agnes. What do you think?

- We're going!
- We're off. We're away!

- It cost four and six to get in.
- I've five pounds saved.

I'll take you.
I'll take us all.

How many years has it been since
we were at a dance in the village?

And I don't care
how young they are.

How drunk and dirty and sweaty they are.
I want to dance.

It's the festival of Lughnasa.
I want to dance.

I know. I know.

It's settled. We're going.

Like we used to.

I love you, Aggie.
I love you.

Will you come to Abyssinia
Will you come

Bring your own cup
and a saucer and a bun

Mussolini will be there
with his airplanes in the air

Will you come to Abyssinia
Will you come

We're going nowhere.
Look at yourselves, will ya?

Mature women... dancing?

What's come over you all?

We're going to no harvest dance.

And you were going to pay for us all
out of five pounds you saved?

I don't see any of that being
offered up for the housekeeping.

That's more than I have!

This isn't your classroom.

Maybe I should start
knittin' gloves.

I wash every stitch
of clothes you wear.

I polish your shoes.

I make your bed.
We both do, Rose and I!

Paint the house,
sweep the chimney...

cut the grass, save the turf.

What you have here
are two unpaid servants.

And if you will now
keep your mouth shut...

this unpaid servant
will make your tea.

Mr. Evans'll be off again...

for another 12 months.

Christina will sob and lament
in the middle of the night.

I don't think I could go through
another winter like that.

You work hard at your job.
You try to keep the home together.

Suddenly, you realize
the cracks are appearing everywhere.

- It's all about to collapse.
- Nothing's about to collapse.

But what I'm most worried about
is Rose.

If I lose my job,
if this house is broken up...

what'll become of our Rosie?

Evening, ladies.

Look at me, everybody,
on my dad's motorbike!

Okawa, I'm coming home.

I'm coming home.

You're dreamin'.

Come. We'll go for our walk now.

What were you doing
with the wooden sticks, Uncle Jack?

- Anybody want more tea?
- I'm your man.

I was talking to Obi...

the Great Goddess of the Earth.

Is she now?

At this time of year...
harvesttime in Africa-

we celebrate the festival
of the New Yam...

and the festival
of the Sweet Casava.

They're both dedicated to Obi,
the Great Goddess of the Earth.

Is there a Saint Obi?

If there is,
she's not in my prayer book.

How do you celebrate it?

Well, we cut...

cut and anoint...

the new yam
and the new casava.

And then we pass the bowl
around the table...

and each takes one.

We light fires
and we paint our faces.

And then we sing
and drink palm wine.

And we dance, and we dance,
and we dance.

Men, women and children,
and even lepers with limbs missing.

For days on end, dancing.
You lose all sense of time.

A clatter of lepers
doing the Military Two-Step.

- God forgive you.
- They have a great capacity...

for fun and laughing.

You'd love them.
You must come back with me.

I don't think I'd be too keen
on the yams.

Think I'd miss the old spud.

These festivals, they're not
Christian ceremonies, are they?

The Ryangans are faithful
to their own religion.

Will you say Mass soon?

In the house, maybe?

I will, yes.
Monday, maybe.

- Shall I put the wireless on?
- Marconi's in one of his moods.

You might have a look at the aerial
one of these days.

Bit of music
would do us all nicely.

No. We must all be worn out.

Good night.

Good night, all.

Can I stay with Daddy
in the barn?

Please, Mum, I want to.

Tonight, we will all sleep
in our own beds.

And that is final.

I'll see you in the morning.

Come on.
I'll put you to your bed.

I'll be in to read to you
in five minutes.

No. He'll go straight to sleep tonight.
And that too is final.

Gypsy, play your violin

The moon is high above

I'll fly to you
on silver wings

The serenade I love

What's the matter?

Do you ever want to go away?


Just wanted away?

Danny Bradley's asked me
to go away.

To America.

Danny Bradley is no good for you.

He wants to take me to a picnic,
out at Lough Anna. Look...

what he gave me.

I haven't worn it yet.

I'm keeping it for when we go
out on the boat.

You're not going.
Promise me you're not.

Do you hear me?

I hear ya.

I love you. I love you
more than chocolate biscuits.

I love you too.

If you ever do go away,
you'll take me with you, won't you?

I promise.

But it's to be our secret.


That lovely summer
I thought would never end.

We laughed and played
to our heart's content.

And I was king of the castle,
surrounded by all who loved me.

Come on, then. Catch.

Jesus, look at me.
Look at the cut of me.

I thought my hair was lovely.
It's like a whin bush.

- You were lovely.
- God forgive you for mocking.

- Who's that?
- Curly McDaid, God rest him.

Curly? He hasn't a hair
on his head.

Bald at 17.
That's why we called him Curly.

Your sister could tell you
a thing or two about him.

- Tell all.
- My lips are sealed.

Mine are not. He had a few
wild notions about our Kate.

I had no more interest in Curly McDaid
than the man in the moon.

- He was fair mad about her.
- If we're talking about wild notions...

What about him?

Brian McGuinness.

- He's gorgeous.
- Your sister thought so too.

He was a bit like Gerry.
The loveliest dancer.

Do you mind the time
you were robbed?

- That dance competition?
- You were there.

I do remember that night.
They had a waltz competition.

I was looking down
at Curly McDaid's bald head.

But Maggie and Brian
were so beautiful.

Of course, they gave the cup
to the two old ones.

You should have won,
you and Brian.

- What happened to him?
- Brian went to Australia.

He wrote. I answered.
Australia's far away.

The way things go.

So that's that.

Will somebody give us a song?

Rose Mundy, I call on you.
Down By The Salley Gardens."

Down by the Salley Gardens

My love and I did meet

She passed the Salley Gardens

With little snow-white feet

She bid me take love easy

As the leaves grow on a tree

But I being young and foolish

With her could not agree

In a field down by the river

My love and I did stand

And on my leaning shoulder

She laid her snow-white hand

She bid me take life easy

As the grass grows on the weir

But I was young and foolish

And now I'm full of tear

Good morning.

- Do you fancy a stroll by the river?
- I'll be right after you.

Where's your mammy?

She's not up yet.
She's wild tired.

Are you getting something
ready for school?

I'm not listenin'.

Gypsy, play your violin

The moon is high above

I'll fly to you
on silver wings

That serenade our love

Look what you've made me do.
You've ruined my letter.

Whoever you're writing to, he'd need
to be smart to read that scrawl.

Santa Claus.

In August?
At the feast of Lughnasa?

Nothing like gettin' him
before the rush.

- What are you asking for?
- A bell.

- A bell?
- For my bicycle.


The one my daddy's buying me
in Kilkenny.

He promised me.

Well, if he promised you,
aren't you the lucky boy?

Away and write to Santa Claus
some other time. Go on.

A day like today, you should be running
about the fields like a young calf.

I'm not a calf.
I'm Michael, Michael Evans.

That's a fine hat.

Your own is very impressive as well.

We must do a swap
before I go back to Africa.

- You're going back?
- I may. Soon.

- God, I enjoyed that sleep.
- Aren't you the lucky one?

Where's Michael?

Outside, dreaming
he's on his new bicycle.

You never know.
Gerry might buy it.

It's a good thing Michael is blessed
with a great imagination.

- Is there water boiling for tea?
- There will be.

And soda bread.
If Agnes and Rose...

have luck with the blackberries,
we should have some beautiful jam.

- They're pickin' blackberries?
- They are.

Rose in her Sunday best
for some reason.

- Did you hear what I said to Maggie?
- I did.

She said, '"Well, you're a fine lady
to go out pickin' blackberries."

And you said, "I'm some toff, Maggie.
I'm some toff."

Well, stop bein' such a toff
and give me a hand.

All right.

Is that all the sympathy I get?

Now pull me out.

Look at me hands,
all scrabbed with briars.

What's that?

It's a church bell, I think.
You should know.

Yes, I should.

Now, what's our direction?

I want to know exactly where I'm going,
then Kate won't have to nag.

- Nag. That's not a word, is it?
- Nag? Yes. To keep on at somebody.

Oh, good. Nag.
My English is coming back.

- Do you speak Spanish?
- Spanish?

- For Spain.
- No. Not a word.

I can ride a motorbike.
That'll be enough to get me signed on.

I take it you don't approve.


I'm going to fight against Franco,
the Catholic Church and all that.

The Catholic Church.

- Are they for Franco?
- Yes.

They would be.

You're sharper than you seem.

Am I?

Those church bells?
Were they ringing tor a wedding?

Will they ever ring
for you and Christina?


Better to leave her single
than to leave her married.

I've a wild pain in my stomach,
and my head's splittin'.

That's hit you very sudden.

Must be that hot sun.

Maybe you should go home
and have a wee rest.

Aye. I think I will.

- Go straight home.
- I will! Aye.


You'll never go away, will ya?

Did you bring anything to eat?

You said we'd have a picnic,
and I could eat a horse.

Chocolate biscuits.

The very boys.

I don't know why
I'm goin' to Spain.

Everybody says
it'll be over by Christmas.

They said the Great War
would be over by Christmas.

They say that about all wars.
Never are though.

It's for the cause.

There's bound to be something
right about the cause.

It's somewhere to go.

Isn't it?

There's Agnes over there.

You're an eejit of a man,
Gerry Evans.

There now.
You're even more beautiful.

A right glamour girl.

Pretty milkmaid,
put down your pails...

and dance with me.

- Would you have a bit of sense?
- Dance with me, please. Come on.

Give me your hand.

In olden days
a glimpse of stocking

Was looked at
as something shocking

And heaven knows

Anything goes

Good authors too
who once knew better words

Now only use four-letter words
writing prose

Anything goes

But I know you're not responsible
for Gerry's decisions...

but I just feel it would be on
my consciousness if I didn't tell ya...

how strongly I disapprove of this whole
International Brigade caper in Spain.

Would it?

Its a sorry day in Ireland when we send
men off to fight for godless Communism.

And I know he would say
it's for democracy.

- Would he?
- I'm not going to argue.

- I just want to clear my conscience.
- Now you've cleared it.

Good for you.

Did you enjoy them biscuits, Rose?

I did, Danny. Thank you.

Is that all I'm going to get?

It is, yes.

When my wife left me,
I came out here to Lough Anna.

To go out in the boat?

No. To the water.

To throw myself in.

But I didn't.

There's a dance tonight in
the back hills. Will you come with me?

I have to go home.
They'll be worried.

Are you worried?

Are you?

Will you come with me
to the dance tonight?

Yes, I will.
Please, will you stop this?

I'll get back to dry land.

And you won't leave me.

You won't.

Is that a purple stain
on your gansey?

I fell into a bush.
Rosie nearly died laughin' at me.

How is she now?
Is she still in bed?


She's here, isn't she?
She left me and went home to lie down.

She said she wasn't feeling well.

Have you seen Rose?

When did she leave you?

Three hours ago.
She said she felt out of sorts.

And she set off on her own
to come home?

That's what she said.

Start at the beginning, Agnes.
What exactly happened?

Nothing happened. Nothing at all.

We walked to the bushes
and out of the blue she said...

- I've forgotten what she said.
- Think.

She said something
about the warm sun...

and she had a sore head
and a sick stomach.

She'd go home and sleep for a while.
Are you sure she's not in her bed?

Where is she?
What's happening to our Rosie?

Stop sniveling.
Did she go towards home?

I think so. Yes.

- She may have gone into the town.
- Not wearing Wellingtons.

She was wearing
her good shoes...

and her blue cardigan
and her good skirt.

- Danny Bradley.
- What?

- Oh, God, no.
- Danny. Lough Anna. The back hills.

What about the back hills? What do
you know about this Bradley business?

- I know no more than any of you!
- You and Rose always whisper together.

What plot has been hatched
between Rose and Mr. Bradley?

- No plot, Kate, please!
- You're lyin' to me, Agnes!

- You're withholdin'. I want the truth.
- All I know is what I have...

- I want to know everything you know!
- That'll do, Kate!

Will you stop that at once?

She may well be in the town.
She may be on her way home.

She may have fainted
if she wasn't feelin' well.

We're going to find her.

You search the fields
on the upper side of the lane.

You take the lower side
down as far as the main road.

Kate, you go to the old well
and search all around there.

- What are you calling him for?
- He has a motorbike. We need him.

I may go home soon, Kate,
see if the others have found her.

She might be in the kitchen,
havin' a cup of tea.

I wonder if we'll
soon have tea to drink.

I've had a letter from Father Carlin.
And I'm not a teacher anymore.

- What?
- Decline in numbers, he said.

A lie.

He thanked me.

A lie.

A lie, a lie, a lie, a lie.

What is that?

The Lughnasa fires.

People light them
and dance and jump over them.

A fellow called Sweeney
fell into a fire.

He was almost burnt to death.

Lugh, god of light,
god of music.

I remember.

Uncle Jack, where are you goin'?

I'm supposed to be mindin' ya.

Uncle Jack! Come back!

You're not even a real priest.

Welcome to the Lughnasa fires,
Father Jack!

Is this Africa? Rose?

We're gettin' married. I'm Danny
Bradley, and I'm gonna marry Rose.

I wanna go home!

Are these our relations?
Is this your wedding?

No, they're savages! Pagans!
They're no connection to us!

Will you marry us, Father?
Marry me and Rose!

I won't marry you, Danny.
You're married already!

No, look, Rose! Look! Look!

Look what I'll do for you.

- I'm goin' away!
- Where?

It's a secret! Good-bye!

We must go home!
These are not our people!

- Where are you goin'?
- I don't know where!

- We're just going home.
- I'll follow you.

I'll get ya.

Are you comin' home?

You got loads.

They're nice.
They're sweet.

Rose love, we were wild
worried about you.

You said you were
coming home to lie down.

- But you didn't come home.
- Were ya in the town?

That's why you're all
dressed up, isn't it?

You went into Ballybeg, didn't ya?

We'll go and pick some more
blackberries next week.

All right. I'll lie down
for a few hours...

but I'll be up to fetch turf
in the morning.

I want to know
where you've been.

- Later, after she sleeps.
- Where you have been!

- Lough Anna.
- Where?

- Lough Anna.
- Kate, just leave her.

- You walked to Lough Anna?
- Yes.

Did you meet someone there?

Had you arranged
to meet someone there?

I had arranged to meet
Danny Bradley there.

He brought me out in
his father's blue boat.

It's a very peaceful place
up there.

He calls me his Rosebud, Aggie.

Oh, I told you, didn't I?

Then the two of us went up
through the back hills.

We must have seen the last
of the Lughnasa fires.

They are pagans.

I came home with Jack...

and I said good-bye to Danny.

And that's all I'm gonna tell ya.

That's all any of youse
are gonna hear!

What's happened to this house?

Mother of God,
what has happened to this house?

We should get some sleep.

Come on, Katie dear,
to your bed.

Maggie'll kill you.

- Where's Gerry?
- He's trying to fix the aerial.

That bloody set
was never any good.

Never any damned good,
that bloody set!

- He knows what he's doing.
- Never any damned good, that bloody set.

You've already offered us
that bit of wisdom.

Come on. Come and join me.
Come on.

Come on.

Will you and Michael
come away with me?

I know.

Is there nothing I can do?


I could leave you alone.

You could.


Don't leave me just yet.

Come on. Keep up.

Come on, Daddy.
Give it to me.

Soccer's no game for a man.

Rugby! That's what Welshmen play.

If I had time,
I'd teach you to play rugby.

You know I'm goin' away
tomorrow, don't you?

Will you miss me?

Will you miss me?

And Mammy? Will you miss her?

I will.

Then don't go, Daddy.

I'm a soldier now, Michael.

I have to fight.

Look, there's your Uncle Jack.

What's he doin' in that regalia?

Gerry, my dear friend.

We must now make
our formal farewells.

I hope all goes well in Spain,
you old rogue.

- You're off tomorrow?
- I am, comrade.

That's a wonderful uniform.
I could do with that for Spain.

It was my uniform when I was chaplain
to the British Army in the Great War.

There was a time when it fitted.
There was a time when it was splendid.

It still is splendid.

We must now make the exchange
the way they do in Africa.

Now, I place my possession
on the ground.

And take three steps away.

Then I turn round once.

Now, you come to where I was, and
I move over to where you were standing.

The exchange is now formally
and irrevocably complete.

This is my straw hat.

And that is your ceremonial hat.

Put it on.

Splendid! It suits ya.


I'm broke to the bone arrivin' so late
but I had to tell youse...

it's definite.

I have to pay youse off.

There'll be no more need
for home knit gloves.

The factory's definitely
startin' in Donegal Town.

How are we going to live, vera?

Youse may apply for a job in it.

I wish youse better luck
than I had.

They told me I was too old.
I'm 41.

They said I was too old.

It was good of you
to come and tell us.

I only wish it was better news.

- Good night to youse.
- Good night.

I'll make us all
a nice cup of tea.

Sit down.


Right you be.

For there's no places
on Earth just like

The homes of Donegal

I can't stick that song.

- We might get another rooster for ya.
- It doesn't matter.

- And I'll put manners on him early.
- I don't want another.

Where's Jack?

He's out lookin' up
at the moon and stars.

He's conducting his own
distinctive spiritual search.

Let him.

Do you know what I'm thinkin'?

What has Ballybeg not got
that Ballybeg needs?

- What?
- A dressmaker.

So why doesn't Agnes Mundy
who has such clever hands...

why doesn't she dressmake?

- Clever hands?
- You'd get a pile of work.

- You'd make a fortune.
- Some fortune in Ballybeg.

Stitching shrouds.

- Then how you gonna manage?
- She'll manage.

We'll pull together.
The family will always manage.

We will manage.
We always do.

- And you know how, don't you?
- How?

Our secret. Don't you remember?

That's right. Our secret.

We never saw them again.

They vanished without a trace.

Years later I learned that they ended
as shadows on the streets of London...

scraping a living together,
dying alone.

My Uncle Jack
lasted as long as he could...

believing to the end
in the Earth and the stars.

My father did go to Spain
and was wounded.

My Aunt Kate said it would
put an end to his dancing days.

Maybe it did.

My mother got a job at the factory.
She hated it all her life.

And my father wrote to her

Through it all, Aunt Maggie
tried to keep the house going.

She tried to pretend
that nothin' had happened...

but the family had changed.

It had changed forever.

And my Aunt Kate
was inconsolable.


Me... I was waitin'
to become a man...

waitin' to get away.

Just to go away.

But the memory of that summer
is like a dream to me...

a dream of music that is
both heard and imagined...

that seems to be both itself
and its own echo.

When I remember it,
I think of it as dancing...

dancing as if language
had surrendered to movement...

dancing as if language
no longer existed...

because words were
no longer necessary.