Saoirse Ronan: Carlow to Hollywood

“Our next guest is one of the very few people to be nominated for an Academy Award before they were old enough to drive”. Jimmy Kimmel is introducing Saoirse Ronan.

Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan

He’s not lying. Ronan was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress role at the tender, almost unimaginable, age of 13.

For the actress, who was born in the Bronx and grew up in County Carlow, the nomination was the beginning of a career that would push her into the most blinding of Hollywood limelight. 

And while the red-carpet premieres, talk shows and screaming fans have become an ever-increasing part of her life, home, Ireland, isn’t going anywhere.

Altamont Gardens, Carlow
Altamont Gardens, Carlow

“The hair and make-up people decorated the trailer for me and they had a cake… I did have a pint of Guinness with my friends when I got back to Dublin, though.”

In describing her birthday celebrations to the Independent, Ronan has unconsciously informed us how life for an Irish-based Hollywood star works. One moment it's hair and make-up crews and trailers, the next it’s a pint of the black stuff in Dublin with mates.

The contradictions don’t end there. The multi-million dollar movie sets and far-flung locations must, at times at least, seem a little far from Ireland’s second tiniest county, Carlow, where she grew up.

This is a county where a single castle is 800 years old (in contrast, Hollywood became a newly-established community in 1870) and another, Huntington Castle, home to the Temple of Isis, was built as a garrison for British soldiers in 1625.

But let’s not pretend that Carlow doesn't have a cinematic quality. Altamont Gardens is a perfectly packaged Secret Garden, particularly beautiful during snowdrop season. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood Galanthophile (Snowdrop enthusiast).

In the Blackstairs, shared with Wexford, you’ve got a russet mountain range that could rival the Mournes for Narnia magic.

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Like millions of emigrants and travelling workers before her, Ronan has found her appreciation for Ireland grow simply from being away. “I’ve found that while I’ve been away my accent gets strong,”, she told Irish magazine RSVP. “I become more Irish. I become more patriotic.” Ireland, and Carlow, will do that to you.

Grow up in a county where sites like Duckett’s Grove are Sunday escapes, or where a gentle curve of the River Barrow belongs only to you and your rod, and you’ll find it easy to miss.

No matter where she is in the world, Ronan makes sure to give a little bit back home. She showed her appreciation of Ireland’s delicious food revolution with a no-fee performance on behalf of Origin Green, a leader in sustainable high quality food and drink production, as well as becoming a spokesperson for the ISPCC (the child protection charity in Ireland), amongst others.

Ronan’s star is on the rise and shows little sign of stopping. And on a journey that will take her around the world, it must be nice to know that Carlow, in its wee glory, isn’t going anywhere.

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