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A Burren return for Gerrit Van Gelderen


Rare footage recorded in the Burren by legendary RTÉ documentary filmmaker, Gerrit Van Gelderen, in the 1960s, 70s and 80s will be shown to the public for the very first time at the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan this Friday, April 5.
The footage was recorded by Van Gelderen while shooting episodes of his seminal nature programme, To The Waters And The Wild, in North Clare.
The previously unseen footage has been compiled over the last number of weeks by Gerrit’s filmmaker son, Finn, to commemorate the 30 years since his father’s passing.
“The film contains footage that was recorded in the Burren from as far back as the 1960s. The theme of the film is to commemorate 30 years since his father’s passing and to share tales about him,” said Ballyvaughan woman and friend of the Van Gelderens, Eilís Haden-Storrie.
“Gerrit was the first documentary film maker in RTÉ, in fact, he started as a graphic designer on the news. One of his jobs was to draw the weather very quickly on the screen as the weather presenter was describing it.
“Gerrit was making these documentaries in an age when you literally had to hide in a hedge for a day to get a shot of a fox, there was no fancy technology. You had your flask of tea and your sandwich and you just stuck at it. There was no comforts and no frills. He was completely connected with what he was doing and completely passionate.”
Gerrit has a special connection with the Burren and spent a lot of time with his friend John McNamara at the Admirals Rest in Fanore.
“Brendan Donoghue from Ballyvaughan, John McNamara and Gerrit were very close friends and Gerrit stayed a lot at Fanore, so there was a lot of footage taken in that area.”
As well as images of nature in the Burren, a number of local people are also captured in the footage shot up to 60 years ago.
“Just today in the background of a shot, Finn found has some footage of Brendan Donoghue’s youngest daughter Jane, who now runs the Tea Room in Ballyvaughan. There is a shot of her, aged around eight years old.
“There are other shots also of the time that the dolphin who normally stays around Doolin, came to Fanore. There are shots taken in the water with the dolphin.
“There is footage of some local people, there shots of nature, there are shots of Finn and his siblings and Gerrit. Gerrit always like to turn the camera around on his family. And there are lovely shots of the area around here as well.
“There will be shots of Ireland in general and talk about what Finn’s father was doing and his life here. Gerrit was very much about showing Ireland as a haven for nature.
“After World War II Holland has saw a lot of industrialisation and at that time a lot of Dutch and German people came here to experience the nature.
“What Finn sometimes is what Gerrit really wanted to do was show people their backyards at a time when we didn’t have social media or the internet so we didn’t really know what the different parts of the country were like.”
A film tribute to Gerrit Van Gelderen will take place in the Burren College of Art this Friday from 7.30pm.

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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