By: Louise Walsh
Remarkably the ten members of 'St Laurence Cine Society' chanced their arm in succeeding to get into the best vantage points when the Pope arrived at Killineer in Drogheda, Co Louth 39 years ago.
Meath businessman Eamonn Matthews of Excel Print said the film was so popular, it packed a Drogheda venue for six night at 50p a ticket, netting nearly 500 punt.
"All we wanted to do was make a small film of the memorable occasion but we were met with insurmountable obstacles from church and state," said Eamonn who opened his business on Church Hill in Navan 29 years ago.
"There was no help from the Drogheda Parish at that time, who said we were too amateur to even consider giving us access to the site.
"The International Press Corps arrived at a Drogheda venue and I went in looking for press passes. When they refused, I told them that I'd stay there all night if I had to but I wasn't going anywhere until I got some passes.It's funny but there was no vetting that I remember, despite the ongoing troubles in Northern Ireland."
The tickets were raffled between the nine members and Eamonn wasn't one of the lucky ones. "The rest of us started to think outside the box, so we joined as many organisations as we could who were volunteering on that day, including the Red Cross and the Order of Malta.
"Once we got in, sure we knew there were enough volunteers to cope so we mingled through the crowd to get the best vantage points and I got great shots of the Pope as he passed from my place on a road above the site.Other members of the club infiltrated the VIP area and even went behind the altar to get the helicopter landing. There was some great footage."
The entrepreneurs also sold advertisements on the film to local businesses for £10 punt. After editing, the group ended up with a 40 minute film of the visit but discovered they were under pressure to find a sound track for the pope's drive around the people of Killineer.
"We had just a day to find a good track which then had to be melted into the film at various points. Back then, it was very much time consuming. Stress set in and we trawled the archives for suitable music, even the classics but could find nothing appropriate. Then, like a miracle itself, Dana released Totus Tuus and it was perfect, even though we had to put more choruses in than Dana actually intended," he laughed.
"We called the film 'The Cry of Centuries' - a reference by the Pope to the centuries of religion in Ireland in a history which brought him here.
The film was only scheduled initially for one night, then three and then extended to six nights in a bigger hall to cope with demand. "We only expected a few hundred to show up but 4,000 came to see the film. Our screen was an old shop window blind, painted white as a conventional screen wasn't big enough."
"After the second show, the local clergy arrived in and demanded that the film be handed over as it was now too valuable to be left in the hands of amateurs. We told them that this was not an option as they had not helped us get permits in the first place.
"It was hot bulb technology and everyone brought along their projectors and spare bulbs in case of problems. All that technology is now defunct and we've searched everywhere for the bulbs but we're now hoping someone may have the know-how to digitally remaster the film for re-release," he concluded.