“I’m the fourth generation farming here and my son, Patrick is the fifth. I’m married to Ailish and thankfully all five of our children are not too far away. Patrick had been working in Dublin and came home to farm.

Himself and his friend, Robert always had a vision – even when they were in school – that they would go into film. When he made the move home, they said they would take the plunge and set up a film company. They already made two shorts which were very successful, so then they said they would go for a feature. They wrote, produced and directed Lakelands themselves which was a big thing to do. Lakelands was shot on our farm, just one mile outside Granard town.

Old gold

Back in my time, you farmed from when you were a small child. My father was crippled with arthritis so we were out milking cows from a young age. I’d have them milked before going to school in the mornings. My schooldays finished when I was 13 and I have been full-time dairying since then. I wouldn’t do anything else.

I milk 40 cows here. We could milk a lot more but I don’t want to over stock.

The old people are very wise, they have great sayings. My father used say, ‘half stock, full rent; full stock, no rent.’ Basically, what it meant was, if you are stuffed to the gate and have huge expense, you’ve yourself under constant pressure. Another old saying they used to have was, ‘old hay is old gold.’ Back in the day, they would have reaps of hay up in the haggard. They would never be happy unless there was a reap of hay left in the haggard after the winter was over. It was a cushion, you know, just in case.

It’s the British Friesians we have here. We always had a Hereford bull with the cows in my father’s time, but I put the Friesian bull with them and sell the heifers on.

Setting the scene

When the two boys were writing the script for the film, we had a conversation and there was an understanding that it would be shot here, in the home place.

We were planning it months in advance, getting the yard ready for it. The whole area was just brilliant about it all: the mart, the pubs, the shops and restaurants – they all bought into it.

Lakelands was shot on location at Padraig McGivney's farm near Granard, Co Longford.

There was a crew of about 35-40 people here in November 2021 filming on and off for three weeks. That was in the middle of COVID-19 and we were blessed; we sailed through it and not one person got a sniffle or anything.

The weather was perfect too. The sun was beaming down – it couldn’t have been better.

When the crew were shooting, I would go ahead of them and have the next scene set up ready for them to go. Moving cows and calves across the road, getting them into a field, that kind of thing.

Bated breath

There is a scene in the film, where the main character is told that he is responsible for the next calf being born – he is under pressure.

Well, the boys were under pressure too, because in order for the scene to fall into place, they were really hoping for a cow to start calving while they were on site filming.

Actor Eanna Hardwicke with Enya the calf, whose birth is featured in Lakelands. /Patrick McGivney

When Patrick came home to farm, I knew he always loved black cattle so I said: “Lookit, you need to have an interest in what you are doing, you need something you really love here, so come on, we’ll go and buy a black cow, a good one.”

We went down to Carrick-on-Shannon and there was this incredible heifer there, she was on the Irish Farmers Journal and we gave €7,300 for her. We brought her home, flushed her and took embryos out of her. We had three heifer calves on the flush.

They were all out in the yard shooting and I went up to see how the cows were and what was happening only two of them were calving. So, I said to one of the crew, get them down here quick, there’s a calf on the way.

The actor, Eanna Hardwicke, wouldn’t have a clue about calving and we had to show him how to use the [calving] jack. Next thing, a little black calf popped out and lay on the ground. Now, if I was there, I would have been making sure the lungs would be getting cleared but he didn’t know what to do, so it was nerve-wracking stuff. Patrick jumped in and got the calf up and Enya [one of the calves born on the flush] is now good and healthy. It all worked out so well.

The crew were so nice, there was a great atmosphere among everybody. They’d come into the house and drink tea; they were part of our home for three weeks. I was more than happy to facilitate them and very proud and honoured to be part of it.”