Award-winning film makers Allister Higgins from Clonmel (left) and Niall Kenny, Nenagh (centre) with Pádraic Ó'Raighne of TG4 at the Student Media Awards ceremony at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
A documentary about the night eight German pilots landed near Nenagh during the Second World War has earned two young Tipperary film makers a national award.
‘An Lá a Thit an Condor’ , the overall winner in the Best TV Production of a Documentary or Drama in Irish category at the Student Media Awards, was directed by Niall Kenny from Nenagh and co-edited with Allister Higgins from Clonmel.
Described as an evocative blend of reconstruction and archive, it features Niall Kenny's grandfather Micheál Cleary recalling the day eight German pilots landed near Ballycommon, Nenagh on December 13 1943.
Allister and Niall were students of the postgraduate course In Television and Digital Media Production run by Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), in association with Nemeton TV, one of the country’s leading production companies, based at the Gaeltacht in Ring, Co. Waterford; and Udarás na Gaeltachta.
Allister said he was delighted and shocked to win the award. The Student Media Awards, which were presented at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, attracted entries from all over the country in categories including television, documentary, short film and radio.
The son of Catherine (Kay) and Noel Higgins, Allister was born in Carlow and the family moved to London when he was a year old.
They returned seven years later, setting up home in Kilmore, a couple of miles outside Clonmel in the parish of Powerstown/Lisronagh, and Allister attended school at Powerstown National School and Clonmel High School.
He completed a course at LIT in Thurles before enrolling in WIT to study a Higher Diploma in television production.
Other graduates from that course dominated the nominations in the Best TV Production of a Documentary or Drama in Irish category at the Student Media Awards.
Allister now works as a graphics and sound operator with the Oireachtas broadcasting unit and as a graphics co-ordinator with RTE television, where he will be working on programmes including The Sunday Game and the soccer World Cup in Russia throughout the summer.
Allister and Niall Kenny's winning entry focused on the incident in December 1943, when a German Fokke-Wolf 200 Condor class reconnaissance plane was spotted descending perilously close to the ground over Dromineer in North Tipperary, heading in the direction of Killaloe.
According to eyewitnesses, at about 7pm the plane crash-landed and erupted into flames in Seymour’s farmland near Ballycommon village.
The stricken aircraft had been seen and heard by several people in the locality, and it wasn’t long before a tide of bicycles and the Nenagh fire brigade were rushing to the scene of the crash.
The investigation job fell to the trained volunteers of the Local Defence Force (LDF), the armed security outfit charged with back-up policing of the nation as a preventative measure against invasion during the war years. Converging on the burning plane, the LDF men could hear voices from the German crew members – all still alive – calling out from behind cover.
What the local militia didn’t realise was that the Germans were warning them to stay back from the plane, as there was still the risk of a serious explosion emanating from within its fragmented remains.
One LDF man, Jack Loughnane, ventured too close and caught the edge of the blast from a bomb that exploded as he was peering through the cockpit. He suffered a serious head injury and ended up losing an eye. Another man, Tommy O’Meara, sustained a less serious arm wound from the blast.
The German crew, among them a pilot, navigator and gunners, rushed to the aid of both men with their first aid kits.
After an ambulance arrived and the commotion had abated slightly, the airmen, realising they were in neutral Ireland, surrendered themselves to the LDF and were conveyed to Nenagh for temporary imprisonment.