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Rotha Mor An Saoil (Hard Road To Klondike)

Director: Desmond Bell


Developed from the autobiography of Michael MacGowan, an emigrant labourer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Hard Road to Klondike is the retelling of a life of punishing work done at the limits of survival. Voiceovers drawn from the autobiography describe how MacGowan left home at fifteen, to Scotland and later America, in search of his fortune. Without footage of MacGowan’s own life, Hard Road instead creatively employs fiction films and relevant archival footage of workers, railroads and the like to illustrate a narrative which sees MacGowan sympathising with North America’s crumbling Indian society before setting his eyes on Klondike and the gold buried beneath its snow-capped hills. With MacGowan moving from rural farming to industrial mines this documentary provides a stirring reminder of the difficulties experienced by Irish labourers as they exchanged poverty at home for poverty abroad in the punishment attempt to make something of themselves.

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