Irish Destiny (1926)





Director:     George Dewhurst.

Starring:     Paddy Dunne Cullinan (Denis O'Hara),  Frances Macnamarra (Moira Barry),  Clifford Pembroke (Mr. O'Hara),  Daisy Campbell (Mrs. O'Hara),  Brian Magowan (Gilbert Beecher),  Cathal MacGarvey (Shanahan, the jarvey),  Evelyn Henchey (Kitty Shanahan),  Kit O'Malley (Captain Kelly, IRA commandant).

the Black and Tans make life very difficult for one young IRA fellow


"For over 700 years the Fight for Independence continued in Ireland and in 1916 another insurrection took place.  This determined effort left its mark, and in December 1918 at a General Election the Irish people voted by an overwhelming majority for Sinn Fein Independence of Ireland.  Their elected representatives met in a National Assembly called Dail Eireann which the English Cabinet tried to suppress.  Ireland's forces were known as the IRA (Irish Republican Army), a body of volunteers who for over two years met the powerfully equipped and numerically superior English troops in guerilla warfare.  During this trying period, the help, sympathy and unity of the Irish people was the greatest weapon of the IRA."

"And in 1920, Ireland was in the throes of a cruel and bloody wear.  There was a reign of terror throughout the country; raids for arms and arrests of citizens were continually taking place."

"The Village of Clonmore, nestling amid the hills, is yet untouched by the horrors of war."

The home of the O'Hara's.  The parish priest plays his daily game of chess with his friend O'Hara.  The mother of Denis nervously awaits the return of Denis her son.  He is coming by train from Dublin.  Denis was popular, a good athlete and quite the horseman.  He gets off the train and sees Old Shanahan, the local jarvey, with his one-horse taxi.  With him is his daughter, Kitty.  Denis goes over and talks to the two of them.  Shanahan wants to know the latest news and Denis tells him that parts of Cork have been burned.  He gives Shanahan the paper, dater December 13, 1920.  The headline says "A City of Ashes".   Over 300 buildings have been destroyed in Cork.  Denis decides to walk home. 

Moira is the local school teacher. Denis walks over to her.  They walk together along the road.  They kiss.  Shanahan and Kitty come by on the carriage and see them kissing.  Denis and Moira jump on the carriage and away all four of them go.  The couple in love are dropped off at the O'Hara's house. 

Meanwhile, heavy English reinforcements keep coming into Dublin.  An auxiliary English force known as the "Black and Tans", from their black coats and tan trousers have be specially organized to subdue the Irish.  In Clonmore there is a raid for arms and the British start firing on the Irish.  They arrest quite a few people. 

Tom Kelly, Captain of the Clonmore Volunteers of the IRA, speaks with Denis.  He gives Denis a pistol and says he's glad Denis is with them.  They will meet tonight at the old ruins by the lake at midnight.  The password is "Erin".

At night the men met.  They will ambush the British lorries tomorrow.

The Haunted Mill is used to make an alcoholic drink known as Poteen.  This is strictly prohibited by the IRA. The owner of the still is Gilbert Beecher, who is a newcomer to the town.  He starts barking orders to three men, one of them a dwarf.  Beecher takes a drink to test whether the liquor is good.  He approves. 

At dawn the volunteers with very few firearms prepare to attack British lorries filled with British military and the Black and Tans.  Along comes three lorries.  The Irish open fire on them.  The enemy jumps out of the trucks and starts attacking the Irish line of defense.  The Irish have to retreat. 

One of the Irish volunteers checks the pockets of a fallen British soldier.  He finds a document from the Intelligence Department to Headquarters Intelligence that says:  "We have reliable information that there will be a meeting of the important IRA officers at Vaughn's Hotel, Dublin tonight.  You will arrange for a strong force to raid it. "   He gives the message to Denis who is to deliver it to the headquarters of the IRA at Vaughan's Hotel, Dublin, before curfew.  Denis will have to ride across country because the trains and roads are all watched. 

Denis's parents and Moira anxiously await his arrival.  As soon as he comes in they ask him where has he been.  Denis talks to Moira and tells her to bring the horse Paddy to the cross roads for he will need Shanahan's fastest horse today.  Moira leaves.  Denis tells his parents that he is going for a ride.  He leaves.

Moira tells Kitty to saddle up Paddy and to tell her father not to tell anyone about this.  Denis waits at the crossroads.  Moira takes the carriage and brings along Paddy behind her.  Beecher stops in his car and offers Denis a ride, but Denis says no.  Beecher is suspicious so he drives on a ways, but then stops.  Moira arrives and Denis tells her he's off to Dublin.  They kiss goodbye.  Denis takes off.  Moira takes off too, but a pistol shot spooks the pony and it becomes a runaway.  Denis has to come back and chase after the carriage until he catches it.  Moira has fainted already.  Beecher comes along  to see what's up.  He tells Denis that he can trust him to take care of Moira.   When Moira awakens Beecher lies and says that Denis saw her pony bolt, but would not come back to rescue her, so he had to do it instead.  He says if it weren't for him, she would have been killed.  Moira forces her way free of Beecher's clutches and says she knows that what he says isn't true.  She knows that Denis was on his way to Dublin.  Moira gets in the carriage and leaves. 

Denis has to keep on the lookout for British sentries.  Nevertheless, he is spotted and shots are exchanged between him and the sentry.  A British soldier on a motorcycle hears the shots and goes to investigate.  He catches up with Denis and Denis opens fire on him.  The soldier is dead.  Denis then takes his motorcycle and off he goes. 

At Vaughn's Hotel an intelligence Officer awaits dispatches.  Meanwhile, Beecher sends a message to the Black and Tans concerning Denis.  Denis reaches Dublin and comes riding down the city streets.  Meanwhile, the British surround large areas of the city and any suspected IRA volunteer is arrested.  The Irish on the street shout out their support for the volunteers.  The Brits search through Frank O'Hara's store looking for Denis.  Denis is speeding to the hotel, but becomes aware that a car is following him.  He reaches his destination and is taken inside. 

Denis comes out of the hotel and walks down the street.  A car full of Black and Tans comes speeding toward him.  Denis takes his pistol out and starts shooting.  He gets shot and goes down.  The Black and Tans pick up his body and throw it into their car. 

Meanwhile, Paddy the horse makes his way back home.  Kitty sees the horse and is afraid of what it probably means.  Kitty runs over to Tom Kelly and asks if it's true that Denis has been killed?  Tom says that it's true. Kitty cries.  Kitty now goes to tell Moira.  Moira sees her crying on the bench outside her door and she senses what has happened.  Kitty tells her for sure and Moira is distraught.  She goes inside the house alone. 

The priest comes to see Denis's parents.  He tells them of their son's death.  The mother promptly faints.  When she awakens she realizes that she is completely blind.  Moira moves into the O'Hara house to try and comfort the mother. 

But Denis is not dead.  He is in a military hospital in Dublin.  The nurse writes his letter to Moira for him saying that he is getting better in the hospital. 

The Black and Tans roust out a lot of suspects from a building.  There is a large fire in one of the city buildings, the Customs House.  The news of the daring act is heard around the world.  The fire burns for three days and three nights. 

The IRA gets a message that Gilbert Beecher has been seen with the Black and Tans.  In addition, he is running a Poteen Distillery. 

Irish prisoners held by the British dig a tunnel in order to escape. 

Kitty takes Moira for a ride in the carriage to help cheer her up.  They spot Beecher sneaking around and wonder what he is doing.  He is going to the old mill to check on his distillery. 

The Black and Tans have tracked the Clonmore volunteers to a hide-out.  A fight breaks out between the two groups of men.  Captain Kelly and his volunteers are able to escape out the back way, but one of their men is shot in the head.  They pick the man up and take him to another hide-out.  The fellow says he wishes he could have lived to fight on against the British.  He dies.    

The prisoners work nearer and nearer freedom.  The men come up out of the hole and start running for freedom.  This is the famous escape of over 200 prisoners from the Curragh Internment Camp.  Denis is one of the escapees.  He hides from British aircraft over head.  An old woman gives him some milk to drink. 

Beecher stops his car to speak with Moira.  He tells her that there is a wounded volunteer on the road ahead who needs her help.  Moira gets in his car.  Beecher takes her into a field by some woods.  Denis reaches Kitty's house and Kitty is very happy that he is alive!  Beecher takes Moira to the old mill.  Denis and Kitty get on the horse Paddy and ride off  in search of Moira.  Beecher suspects that it was Moira who ratted on him to Captain Kelly and now he wants revenge.  He has her tied to a big support column.  Beecher menaces her, but one of the moon shiners pushes him off her.  Beecher then shoots the man with his pistol.  The man goes down and his lit cigarette falls onto the floor igniting some of the hay there. 

Denis and Kitty find Beecher's car.  They rush over to the mill and go inside.  Beecher is about to kiss Moira when Denis shows up.  He gets the gun away from Beecher and shoots the dwarf.  He then knocks another moon shiner out.  Beecher and Denis now fight it out.  Denis wins and he gets Moira out of there.  The fire consumes all four moon shiners.

"As a result of the burning of the Customs House, the bloody ambuscades and the horrors of guerilla warfare, overtures of peace were made to the IRA."  

In the paper for July 11, 1921, the headline is about The Armistice.  Hostilities will cease in Ireland at noon this very day. The parents of Denis are very happy about this, but still sad over the loss of their son. 

"The determination and activities of the volunteers were at last recognized."

News arrives that Denis is alive.  He rushes in to say hello to his mother and father.

"On Clonmore's green, Erin's sons and colleens dance in happiness to the music of the pipers, while Dublin's streets are thronged with cheering crowds."

The priest with the O'Haras says:  "Let us pray that this will mark the dawn of a new era.  Peace and happiness to all mankind."  Moira and Denis kiss. 


For a silent, black and white film made in 1926, it's not a bad movie at all.  The story is told completely from the Irish perspective.  We don't meet any members of the British military or of the Black and Tans.  It would have been better to hear the reasoning behind the British moves.  And you don't get the idea of just how cruel the Black and Tans were to the Irish.  In fact, they were too cruel even for British tastes and were disbanded.   Instead, the entire force of the movie is on the patriotism of the Irish volunteers for the IRA.  There is a nice love story in the film too. but it's a very simple one.  Without the British side of things,  the plot is a little too simplified and straight forward.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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