At the tip of the Ards Peninsula, the remote but picturesque village of Kearney seems an unlikely location to find film crew and A-listers. Last spring however the stonewash village, which is cared for by National Trust, was transformed into a wartime film set when production for the BBC’s new drama My Mother and Other Strangers got underway.
Set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War; the five-part historical drama tells the story of the Coyne family and their neighbours in the fictional village of Moybeg, for which Kearney village was the film set.
The story charts how residents’ lives are turned upside down with the arrival of a United States Army Airforce airfield and 4,000 personnel into the area and was filmed by BBC Northern Ireland with funding from Northern Ireland Screen.
Kearney village was one of a number of National Trust places in Northern Ireland used in the filming of the drama. As a conservation village looked after by the National Trust since 1965, special care was taken to protect both the place and its people while filming was underway.
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Andrew Upton, Coast and Countryside Manager for the National Trust, explains these were key factors in the decision to facilitate filming in this historic location. The location fee was an additional bonus, helping towards vital maintenance and conservation work in the village.
Chosen for its unspoilt charm, very little needed to be done to the buildings in Kearney to return them to the era of the Second World War, as Andrew explains: “The set team arrived mid-February and the transformation of Kearney village into Moybeg began with the ‘dressing down’ of the buildings and the erection of a mock-pub ‘Coyne’s Bar’. Filming itself began in mid-March and lasted around six weeks.
“The BBC were very helpful, our visitor and supporters continued to access the site and the residents enjoyed being at the heart of the action with some of them even getting parts as extras during filming.
“To look after these historic buildings takes a lot of investment from us as a conservation charity, particularly in such an exposed coastal environment,’ Andrew explains. ‘The BBC returned the village to its original form, in fact it has never looked better, as some of the buildings hadn’t been painted for a while and benefitted from a fresh whitewash.”
Funds generated from the filming have also been put towards the maintenance of several miles of coastal paths, and the installation of new signage into the village.
With the BBC drama set to be a primetime hit, is Kearney ready for the additional visitors that fame may bring?
“When we talked about filming we were slightly concerned about an influx of visitor appearing in the village as there simply isn’t the infrastructure to support this,’ reveals Andrew.
“But we don’t anticipate unmanageable numbers, and at the end of the day, we can’t hide the fact that Kearney village plays a starring role in this new drama. As a charity we are grateful for the funds that this project has generated. It’s also a super opportunity for us to showcase the vital role the National Trust plays in the protection and conservation of Northern Ireland’s special places, so we hope the series will be a huge success.”
My Mother and Other Strangers begins on BBC One this Sunday at 9pm and runs for five weeks.