Downpatrick woman’s book to be made into film

Downpatrick woman’s book to be made into film

30 January 2019

A DOWNPATRICK woman, who persevered for five years writing the remarkable true story of a young Irish nun who fled barefoot from a convent in her nightgown in the 1920s, is to have her book made into a film. 

Maureen McKeown is no ordinary writer and the movie bares all the hallmarks of no ordinary production. 

Maureen was almost half way through writing her book, The Extraordinary Case of Sister Liguori, when she received devastating news. 

She was in the middle of writing the story of her great aunt, Brigid Partridge, who escaped from a cloistered convent in Australia, when she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. 

“I can only describe the days and weeks that followed my diagnosis as torture,” Maureen said. “The illness, as many are aware, is fatal. However, the book kept me from thinking dark thoughts. Soon, all I wanted was to hold a copy of the book in my hand.”

Maureen’s dream came true in the autumn of 2017 when her haunting story was finally published. 

Maureen, who is the mother of five grown-up children, explained some of the background as to why she put pen to paper.

She added: “I was initially setting out to piece together my family tree and the computer screen flashed up information on my great aunt Brigid. I was so fascinated with what I read that I could see the story unfold in a book and in turn I felt the plot would work well on screen too.”

Research took Maureen to the Presentation Convent in Co Kildare, which Brigid entered at the age of 17. 

Maureen said: “I met with such a warm and friendly welcome from the community of sisters, that it gave me the desire to pursue Brigid’s story further. I travelled to Australia shortly after and I received the same, warm and friendly welcome from the sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wagga Wagga.”

On her return Maureen set about sifting through a mountain of information and carefully crafted the remarkable story of her great aunt. The book was published in July 2017 and was officially launched a few months later to a rapturous reception in Murphy’s Bar in Downpatrick. 

A chance meeting which her web designer, Michael McLaughlin, had had a year later led to a further development. 

She said: “Michael was working on a display in Eclipse Cinema in Downpatrick for another movie when he struck up a random conversation with Colin McIvor.

“As they chatted Michael mentioned that he had recently read a book written by a Downpatrick woman which he thought might make a great movie. 

“Within days Colin, with the backing of Northern Ireland Screen, was in my house and we were signing contracts on a movie deal. That was in July last year and since then the whole thing has snowballed.”

“It has been a pleasure putting the whole thing together. I wrote it like a novel which makes it easy for the reader to follow the story. My story is entirely based on fact.”

As Maureen describes the plot her face lights up. She believes her great aunt would be delighted at her revealing the long-lost tale to a new generation. 

“Brigid had trained as a teacher and in 1908 there was a great demand for priests and nuns with skilled trades in Australia and so she was shipped off to the mother house in Wagga Wagga. 

“Brigid proved herself capable and popular with the children she taught for six years. But a bad day in front of a teaching inspector led the convent demoting her to refectory duties. 

“Two weeks turned into two years of hard labour that took their toll physically and mentally on poor Brigid. Requests to return to her former duties were denied and feeling she had no real means of complaint, it left Brigid desperate. 

“One day she wandered outside the convent walls. Tears welled up in her eyes as she called at a stranger’s home. Her afternoon of tea and warm company by the fire ended all too soon and Brigid was sent back to the convent, seen by a doctor and put to bed,” Maureen added.

The story really begins in earnest at this crossroads in Brigid’s life. Drawing on every ounce of courage she had, Brigid leapt from her bed that night and made a hasty escape barefoot in her nightgown on a foggy winter’s night in 1921. 

This night set the scene for a religious storm unprecedented in Australia’s history. Brigid found refuge in the home of Protestants who refuse to disclose her whereabouts to the Catholic authorities.

A bishop swore before a magistrate that Brigid was insane and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was hunted down like an outlaw and the local media attention created a level of sectarian tension rarely unseen in that part of the world. 

Later, when there was no apology from the bishop for the arrest and slur on her character, Brigid turned to the courts for redress. But taking on the bishop meant taking on the Catholic Church.

Maureen had a challenging time presenting Brigid’s story. 

She said: “It was a scandal at the time but I had to be careful to write it from both sides and let people judge for themselves. It’s all I can do.” 

Maureen says she is looking forward to the film’s premiere. 

She added: “It will be the culmination of not just my five years of writing and telling the story, but all the hard work and effort that my family have put into supporting and helping me and, of course, the efforts of the film company, the director and the actors.

Colin spoke of his enthusiasm over Maureen’s forthcoming film.

“I am thoroughly delighted to have optioned such an amazingly powerful book and to have met the inspirational Maureen and her family through the process,” he said. 

He is currently adapting the book into a screenplay. “I believe the film will offer a fantastic role for a strong female lead and supporting cast,” he said. “To be able to bring this beautifully written, dramatic and deserved piece to the silver screen some day would be just fantastic.”

Log on to Maureen’s website to read more on the forthcoming movie premiere at