Scannáin Bhaile Andy: Andrew Kelly’s Amazing Archive 7th April 8.30pm on TG4
A new documentary about a major Waterford archivist.
Andrew Kelly, an archivist and a collector from Kilmacthomas in Co Waterford, is the focus of a new An Corsaiceach documentary for TG4. Over the past 50 years, Kelly has amassed a huge collection of valuable photographs and film.
Since his teens Kelly has been collecting and cataloguing photographs, negatives, camera equipment and film. To date he has over 20,000 photographs and 15,000 feet of film in his collection. He has also rescued and restored old cameras, flat-bed glazers, lanterns, specialist equipment – all items once used in the creation of film and photography. He has created his own films also, chronicling events of historic and local significance. He continues to preserve film and photographic work, which would be lost did had he not recognised their value.
Born in Kilgobnet in west Co Waterford in 1944, Kelly was only 10 when his mother gave him an old Box Brownie camera as a present.
“The mirrors had fallen-out and I spent days trying to fix it and get it working. But I fixed it eventually and that was the start of my love for cameras, photographs and anything to do with film,” he explains.
In this new documentary, which is produced and directed by film-maker RoseAnn Foley and her company An Corsaiceach, Kelly reveals how he began collecting when he was a young man. It was his first great find and it happened when he was a young man in the 1960s working as an apprentice carpenter in Dungarvan. The discarded box of negatives and flatbed glazers piqued his interest. It had been thrown aside and was about to be thrown out but Kelly saw value in the old dusty photographic plates.
“I asked the owner what they were going to do with the box and he said it was going to be taken to the dump,” he recalls.
He got permission to take this home and he discovered that the box contained
“amazing pictures from the turn of the last century”
taken by the Brennan Family, in particular by Richard Edward Brennan, the dynamic post-master, who is famed for setting up the first cycling club in Europe.
Kelly’s collection today also contains historic and socially important photographic works by other individuals such as the late Frank Rolls, aka Frank Snaps, who photographed people in Waterford city and in Tramore especially in the 1950s and 1960s; and work by Robert Shorthall from New Ross, who dedicated his private life from 1932 to 1981 to capturing all the modes of transport then in use – trains, boats and barges. Kelly has also salvaged valuable images from the important family run studio of A H Poole.
In this half-hour documentary, as narrated by the writer Catherine Foley, Kelly recalls his involvement as projectionist with the Waterford Irish Film Group for over 20 years. He recalls their creation of The Chase, a film that features amateur actors playing their parts in a quirky story as well as valuable footage of Waterford streetscapes as well as coastal shots of cliffs and coves along the Copper Coast.
This new TG4 documentary was filmed under tight lock-down restrictions where Kelly is the sole participant and where he demonstrates some of the items he has collected over the years, all the while sharing his passion and love for his subject. Kelly recalls how he captured footage of the Fleadh Cheoil in Ennis during the 1970s, and he talks about his impulse to capture the closure of Quigley Magnesite Factory in Ballinacourty, Co Waterford in 1982 when the train made its final trip to the plant, shutting down after 12 years in operation with the loss of 140 jobs in the area, plus a further 57 in and around CIE.
In-depth documentaries created by An Corsaiceach to date include films on the writer Molly Keane, on the Waterford Blaa, on the photographer Annie Brophy, on the sinking of the SS Kincora, another about the ballad singer and actor Tom Clancy, on the story behind the cult classic film Langrishe, Go Down (1978) and about the legendary journalist Donal Foley, writer of the satirical 1970s Irish Times column, Man Bites Dog.
Scannáin Bhaile Andy, which means Andy’s Home Movies, is a treat for the eyes, a cornucopia of forgotten images from a magical land that would be lost and forgotten were it not for the tenacity and passion of Andy Kelly.
Scannáin Bhaile Andy will be broadcast on TG4 on Wednesday 7 April 2021 at 8.30 pm.