Maurice O’Callaghan clearly relishes a challenge. After a long and varied career including three decades as a lawyer here and in the US, as well as success as a writer and director, the West Cork native is now turning his hand to musical theatre.
While O’Callaghan, originally from Newcestown, has mined his own family history for his films such as 1994’s Broken Harvest, about the aftermath of the Civil War in Ireland, this time around, his inspiration is a ghostly tale from the seaside town of Kinsale. It is an idea that has been percolating for more than four decades, since O’Callaghan was studying law at UCC in the 1970s.
“It was one of the first creative projects I ever wrote but it’s only now, after 40 years and doing a million other things that I finally came around to resurrecting it,” he says.
The musical, The White Lady of Kinsale, is based on the story of Eoghan O’Neill, the sole survivor of the famous Irish O’Neill clan, who falls in love with Wilful Warrender, the daughter of the commander of the English garrison, which is constructed after the Battle of Kinsale in 1601.
“Wilful persuaded her father to allow her marry Eoghan and they had a big wedding. That night, according to legend, while they were walking the battlements she asked him to go down to the seashore to pick some flowers as a wedding gift.
“On his way down, he took the place of a sentry and sent the sentry down instead — but Eoghan had been given a potion by these schemers which made him fall asleep. The girl’s father came out inspecting the posts and found the ‘sentry’ asleep, challenged him and then shot him with a pistol, not realising it was his new son-in-law.