Women of the Gold Rush & An tOilean sa Bhaile

Women of the Gold Rush is the story of three adventurous Irish women who risked independence for a life of gold prospecting in America’s Frontier. Mayo born Belinda Mulrooney was a daring entrepreneur. From real estate enterprises to building work and eventually as a mining baron, she built several fortunes while still in her twenties. Mollie Walsh thought Alaska might offer escape from life on the margins of society. Her aspirational marriage to a wealthy packer led to tragedy, but her spirit is commemorated by a statue erected in her honour in Skagway, Alaska. Cork-born Nellie Cashman was a legend in the West. A Yukon veteran, she prospected in remote areas from Baja, California to the Arctic Circle and was still mushing huskies at the age of 75. Her goal wasn’t so much gold (she gave most awa y to build schools and hospitals), but the lure of adventure and a life she might not have lived had she not decided to go it alone in the frontier West.
Of the 100,000 stampeders to the Klondike Go l d Rush of 18 97, only half made it. The mountain trails were treacherous and many died in the effort. 5000 women attempted the journey, yet three Irish women stand out.
Directed by: Anne Roper
2004, Colour/B&W, 52 mins, Ireland

An tOilean sa Bhaile
In March 2003, forty-eight residents of Beaver Island, Michigan, journeyed to Arrain Mhor Island off the coast of Donegal for a twinning ceremony. Such ceremonies are not in themselves anything extraordinary in Ireland. Driving throughout the country one will find that most towns are twinned with some other innocuous far-flung location. Traditionally, these ties were designed to inspire friendship, cultural understanding and tourism. Rarely do the twinned locations share underlying connections of any great relevance. This could not be further from the truth in the case of Beaver Island and Arrain Mhor.
The twinning ceremony, which took place in March , represents the culmination of a journey that began over a century and a half ago in 18 51. In that year, their British landlord expelled 163 residents of Arrain Mhor from the island. In Donegal town they boarded coffin ships, which took them to Canada, 3,000 miles from home. Mostly illiterate and speaking only Gaelic, the evictees remained together as a group working for several years on the railroads. By chance, one of their number came upon Beaver Island, thirty miles offshore in Lake Michigan. The island was relatively uninhabited, rich in game, woodland and fishing. After a time, the majority of the original evictees made their way to the island where they established a miniature Arrain Mhor in exile.
In essence, this is a circular story of emigration and eventual homecoming. The original evictees, consciously or otherwise, left one isolated island community and sought out another. Thus, the story is primarily concerned with notions of community; the community that was ripped apart in 1851, the community that was established on Beaver Island and the community on Arrain Mhor that welcomed back their relatives in 2003.
Directed by: Shane Brennan
2003, Colour, 26 mins, Ireland

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