The “Man from Clare” was my muse.

Mike Houlihan with PJ O’Dea

I wanted the narrator of my new film, “Our Irish Cousins”, to have a brogue and intended to recruit Michael Quinlan from Limerick. Michael had been our guide in Ireland. But when it came time to produce our trailer for the film I couldn’t afford to record a narration track in Ireland so I recruited my old friend PJ O’Dea.

PJ agreed to help me out. I figured we could make PJ’s voice somehow work because the trailer was only ten minutes long.

We had PJ sitting in a studio while I listened in the control room. Jim, our engineer, took PJ through the script line by line as he laid down the tracks.

The narrator would have to be authoritative and commanding while telling our story and yet still be in on the many jokes that popped up during our adventures. The voice would also have to resonate with knowledge of Irish mythology and a timbre of antiquity to suggest the long history of our nation. The voice would need to sound like Ireland himself.

As PJ read the script into the microphone I started thinking, “He sounds pretty good, this might work!”

Towards the end of the trailer script was a line promoting “the new film “Our Irish Cousins”.

Jim the engineer was listening to PJ and stopped to correct him, “No, you’re pronouncing it wrong, it sounds like your saying “fill-um”.

I jumped from my seat and said, “No, that’s perfect, don’t correct him, that’s exactly how it should sound!”

I should have known at the moment that PJ’s voice was destiny calling out to me. The trailer worked out beautifully and helped raise funding on our website. But I still intended to use Quinlan because I had already told him he would be recording his voice over. Months later I recorded Quinlan via Skype as he and engineer Dave Keary laid down the full narration track at Red Door Studios in Limerick.

But PJ’s voice still haunted me. My old pal Pete Nolan called late one night and left a message on my voice mail after watching our trailer online, “PJ sounds great!”

I decided to ask PJ if he would record his version of the complete narration and then I would compare the two and choose the one that worked best.

So I picked up PJ and we again traveled to Hubbard Street Studio. It wasn’t until I was in the editing room with our editor Roger Wolski that we decided to replace Quinlan’s voice with PJ as our narrator.

It was the smart move too because when I eventually sent Quinlan the final cut, he sent me a note that said, “PJ did a great job and from the first time I heard his fine voice I knew he was the one to narrate. Give him my best regards and compliments.”

Classy guy.

PJ’s narration is now the star of my film and people continually ask me where I found him. Well I found him right in our backyard.

We’ve been friends for over 25 years. PJ was born in Kilrush, County Clare and so was my great grandfather

PJ is a true GAA legend who played with 2 clubs in 11 cities and in four countries. He won his first county medal in 1939 and represented Clare in minor, junior, and senior hurling and also played senior football with Clare and with the Munster teams in 1951 and ’52. He won an All-Ireland hurling medal and then emigrated to the US where he played hurling and football in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and in New York PJ played for our mutual friend John “Kerry” O’Donnell at Gaelic Park in the Bronx. By coincidence I was the porter at O’Donnell’s bar in Manhattan in the early ‘80’s.

Shooting my film in Ireland I interviewed County Clare Mayor Madeleine Taylor Quinn who told me a story about the day she brought a delegation to Chicago to meet Mayor Daley. She was with her cohorts at the Consul General’s Office and one of the dignitaries was alarmed that PJ had stationed himself outside the Mayor’s office and was waiting to join them for the meeting. This stuffed shirt was complaining of the audacity of PJ to crash their meeting. When they finally entered Daley’s inner sanctum, the Mayor jumped from behind his desk and walked across the room to announce, “PJ, how wonderful to see you again”, while the fakers fumed.

He might be breaking into show business at the age of 86, but he’s been a star all his life. When we paid him for the film he sent back a check to buy my grand daughter Charlotte a new bike.

PJ’s voice brings spirituality to the film with an air of mysticism that reminds us all that it’s important to remember who you are and where you come from. His immense pride as an Irishman and “man from Clare” also remind us to hold on to our heritage, it’s the one thing they can never take away from any of us.

“Our Irish Cousins” is now under consideration by all the major international film festivals in the world. I’m sure any accolades or honors we might win will all be due to the performance of PJ O’Dea, our new fill-um star!

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