The Original Hollywood - Hollywood, Co Wicklow
Hollywood is a picturesque village at the end of the Wicklow Gap road with a population of less the 100 people. There is a great feeling of pride in the village that its name gave rise to Hollywood, USA. Although a lot of people in Co. Wicklow know of the Los Angeles link, it is not common knowledge in this country or abroad. Locals have even erected a replica of the iconic Hollywood sign in the hills above. The Hollywood sign, measuring 1.8m high and 14m long, it can, says its creator Tommy Tutty, be seen from as far away as Kilcullen near the Curragh in Co Kildare.
The name Hollywood derives from the area’s association with St Kevin. The name originates from the words 'Holy Wood', which described a local forest in which Saint Kevin is said to have prayed. He lived here around the end of the sixth century. Having come for solitude St Kevin found that even Hollywood wasn't quiet enough for him. According to legend he was tormented by a woman named Kathleen and to escape her attentions he fled across the mountains, to the even greater isolation of Glendalough.
It was a local emigrant from Hollywood, one Matthew Guirke, who gave the name of his native place to the famous suburb in Los Angeles. Hollywood was decimated by the famine of the 1840s. Like millions of others in the years following this catastrophe Guirke was forced to seek a new life in America. He eventually ended up in California near where Hollywood is today. He succeeded in business and established a popular racetrack which he named after his native Hollywood. It is believed the racetrack brought the name Hollywood to the locality, with what we now know as Hollywood being founded a short distance away in 1887.
It was probably only a matter of time until some movie stars would be seen in Hollywood, Co Wicklow. One of the first was Liam Neeson. When scenes from the film Michael Collins were being shot in 1995 Neeson became a familiar figure in the village. The famous scene at Béal na mBláth, where Collins was killed in an ambush on 22 August 1922, was filmed in Corrigan’s Glen which is located just a few hundred metres from the village. The scenery here is spectacular and its rugged and wild landscape have also been used to great effect in movies such as King Arthur, Reign of Fire and Braveheart.
The movie Dancing at Lughnasa was also filmed here. The film brought the American star Meryl Streep to the streets of the original Hollywood. When locals were hired as extras in Michael Collins and Dancing at Lughnasa they were bemused to find themselves rubbing shoulders with some of Hollywood California’s biggest stars. A particular photograph that stands out is the one featuring local publican Jim Tutty with the actress Meryl Streep at the front door of Tutty’s house in the village. The photograph is an iconic image of two Hollywood greats. Jim is a living legend in his own locality, while Streep is a living legend of modern cinema who enjoys worldwide recognition. The day they were photographed together was the day a true lady from Hollywood California met a true gentleman from the original Hollywood.
Hollywood is located 30 minutes from Dublin. The annual Hollywood fair takes place next month Wed 17th to Sun 21st August and hosts a pre-1950s theme with attire.