The Siren - Full transcript

SOUND: RUNNING. THE SIREN. NUCLEAR EXPLOSION. MURMURED TALKING/SHOUTING

DERMOT
     I don’t remember the dream exactly. There was a
     mushroom cloud on the horizon. I wasn’t alone; there
     was a group of us. We were fleeing frantically across
     some rocky landscape. Into a bunker. Or something.
     Panic, fear, pandemonium.
SOUND: SHARP BREATH. BLUNT SOUND OF SIREN.
DERMOT
     And then I awoke. Into the darkness of 4.45 on a
     November morning. The embers of the street light
     outside seared through a small slit at the top of my
     drawn curtains. I was "shook", but still sleepy enough
     to just lie there without moving.
DERMOT
     The dream had been vivid. I really felt like it had
     just happened.. And I could still hear..
SOUND: BLUNT SOUND OF SIREN
DERMOT
     That sound.
     I waited another moment or two to see if I was still
     just asleep. "Am I really hearing that?." I was.
SOUND: SIREN VOLUME INCREASES/SHARPENS
DERMOT
     The siren. The sound itself is unsettling..
SOUND: SIREN MORPHS INTO A BANSHEE WAIL AND BACK
DERMOT
     I might have a thing about sounds that wail. Because I
     am Irish. My cousin used to tell me stories about the
     banshee, a sort of female grim reaper that heralds the
     death of a loved one through her terrifying "caoin".
DERMOT
     But the siren is also unsettling because of what I
     associate with it: Londoners crowding into tube
     stations during the Blitz; 1960s era American school
     kids drilling for a Soviet Strike. Around that time the
     siren became known as the doomsday siren.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 2.

SOUND: WW2 BOMBERS DRONE. BOMBS EXPLODING. "DUCK & COVER"

ISTRUCTIONS

DERMOT
     The doomsday siren. Imagine that. Just in case you
     didn’t know, since the 1950s, it has been perfectly
     possible for the human race to wipe itself out through
     nuclear war. I first learned about this in the back
     seat of the car listening to a conversation between my
     older brother and father.
     I was around eight. But they were talking about the end
     of the world. My brother’s line was about how there
     were soldiers in America and Russia who spent the whole
     day with their finger over the button, waiting for the
     order to press it. Actually, there probably are. But
     it’s not what an eight-year-old needs to hear.
DERMOT
     My brother was also the one who woke me in the middle
     of the night when NATO and Russian forces had an
     unexpected stand-off at Pristina airport in Kosovo. He
     was watching it all on Sky News.
SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR CREAKING OPEN.
BRENDAN
     Der! Der! DER! Get up and look at this! The Russians
     are taking over the airport! THE RUSSIANS ARE TAKING
     THE AIRPORT!
DERMOT
     Again. Not what an anxious teenager needs to be woken
     up to.
SOUND: SKY NEWS AUDIO
DERMOT
     He also watched the initial reports of Diana’s car
     accident in 1997, when she was reported badly injured.
     He didn’t wake me up for that. But I remember finding
     out news of her death the next morning. And after that,
     I watched Sky News for a week solid.
SOUND: BLUNT SIREN FADES BACK IN. GETTING OUT OF BED QUICKLY
DERMOT
     I got out of bed and headed for the window. I pulled
     the curtains. There were specs of rain hitting the
     pane.
SOUND: WIND AND RAIN FROM INSIDE

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 3.

DERMOT
     Tall tress on the other side of road swayed in
     significant wind.
SOUND: OPENING WINDOW. LOUDER AND SHARPER SIREN. LOUDER WIND

AND RAIN

DERMOT
     "Why is that going off now?" Some kind of international
     incident? Terrorism?
     Or is it something local? Has something leaked? Some
     chemical or something? From one of the factories..
SOUND: FADE TO SILENT
DERMOT
     But this was Kilkenny. The city where I was born and
     raised. It’s famous for Smithwicks ale and hurling. And
     also for being pretty old. In fact, it’s been around
     for about 1000 years. That said, alarming incidents in
     the city’s history have been relatively rare.
     In 1324, Kilkenny played host to the first recorded
     example of a trial for withcraft in Ireland. Alice
     Kytler was accused of acquiring illicit powers through
     sexual intercourse with a demon. The charge was
     motivated by the suspicions of Kytler’s stepchildren,
     which she had acquired through four wealthy husbands-
     all of whom seemed to..die..
     Kytler was pursued by a particularly zealous bishop
     called Richard de Ledrede. The whole affair became
     known as a clash between secular and ecclesiastical
     authority in medieval Ireland.
     When her goose was just about cooked, Alice escaped
     Ireland and was never seen again. Her maid, Petronella,
     took the blame and was burned to death as a heretic.
     That was rough. But not exactly a public emergency.
SOUND: MARCHING ARMOURED SOLDIERS.ENGLISH ACCENTS CHANTING

PSALMS.

DERMOT
     In 1650, Kilkenny was besieged by Oliver Cromwell and
     the New Model Army. I once read that the puritan troops
     used to chant psalms as they prepared for battle. The
     image of "roundheads" reeling off their weird prayers
     as they march on Kilkenny definitely captures the
     imagination.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 4.

DERMOT
     Cromwell had already butchered Drogheda and Wexford. At
     the time, Kilkenny was the capital of the
     Confederation- a loose alliance of Irish Catholics and
     English royalists who both had a lot to lose if
     Cromwell succeeded.
     I’m sure the local population was worried. And that
     they had some kind of early warning system
SOUND: BELL RINGING
DERMOT
     In the end, Kilkenny gave Cromwell a decent fight.
     Sieges weren’t his strong point. And he had to probe
     the city for a day or two before one of his cannons
     finally breached the walls. After that, Kilkenny was
     done for. But the "New Model" went relatively easy on
     the city. Apparently, everyone was a bit knackered by
     plague and the general misery of it all.
SOUND: SIREN FADES IN. DRESSING ONESELF QUICKLY. DESCENDING

STAIRS

DERMOT
     Dressing myself quickly, I ran downstairs to get a grip
     of what was going on. I was alone in the house. So
     there was no one to speculate with.
SOUND: FRONT DOOR OPENING. LOUD SIREN. WIND AND RAIN
DERMOT
     I stepped outside my front door. Across the dark cloudy
     sky, tinted orange by Kilkenny’s lights, I could almost
     see the siren on the wind. I faced where it felt like
     it was coming from. Actually, it was so loud that I
     thought it was coming from a lorry depot across from
     where I lived.
     I looked around to see if anyone else was out. But
     there no one.
SOUND: FRONT DOOR CLOSING. BLUNT SIREN.
DERMOT
     Back inside, I went through the living room on the way
     to the kitchen. Passing the TV, I considered turning on
     Sky News to see if this was more than an isolated
     incident. More possibilities ran through my mind.
SKY NEWS ANCHOR
     Breaking News: Explosion at Sellafield Nuclear Plant.
     News Alert: Irish authorities evacuating East Coast

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 5.

DERMOT
     Sellafield. That was the other great boogeyman of my
     nerves about the end of all things. After the Chernobyl
     disaster in 1986, Ireland started looking nervously at
     this nuclear power plant on the western English coast.
     If Sellafield did a Chernobyl, it’s likely that Ireland
     would be badly exposed to fallout. This is something I
     remember internalising at a fairly young age.
     After 9/11, as the threat of international terrorism
     became more glaring, the Irish government issued iodine
     tablets to the population as a kind of "it’s important
     to be seen to be doing something" measure. If Osama Bin
     Laden’s apostles managed to cause some kind of ruckus
     at Sellafield, the idea was that we would all pop an
     iodine tablet and.. "well shir it’s something anyway".
     A few years later, after the effectiveness of the
     original batch had expired, it was decided not to
     reissue the tablets. The notion that they would have
     worked in the first place had by then become..
     questionable.
SOUND: DIALLING PHONE
DERMOT
     I don’t know why I didn’t turn on the news.. Maybe I
     really was scared.. I decided instead to ring Kilkenny
     Gardaí. The officer who answered sounded like she was
     having an early morning to remember. She was also the
     first person I had contact with since the siren had
     woken me up.
GARDA
     Hello, Kilkenny Garda Station
DERMOT
     Hello.. Hi.. I live on the Freshford Road.. And there’s
     a very loud siren coming from Braningan’s truck yard
     across the road
GARDA
     No.. It’s actually from the Army Barracks.. Someone’s
     set off the Civil Defence Siren and they don’t know how
     to turn it off!
DERMOT
     Oh! Right....
GARDA
     Yeah... I’ve had hundreds of calls all morning
SOUND: OTHER GARDAÍ LAUGHING IN BACKGROUND

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 6.

DERMOT
     Oh God... I thought for a second we’d started World War
     3!
GARDA
     No you’re safe enough.. Hopefully they’ll get it off
     soon now..
DERMOT
     Right. Yeah hopefully.. Exactly yeah
GARDA
     Okay? Bye Bye now
DERMOT
     Thanks...
SOUND: PHONE HANGS UP
DERMOT
     The army barracks. James Stephens’ Barracks. Of course.
     It was behind the truck yard. Or at least in that
     direction.
SOUND: SIREN FADES OUT
DERMOT
     Built in 1803, "Victoria" barracks was designed to
     fortify Kilkenny as the gateway to the south-east. In
     1798, the biggest rebellion in Irish history had
     happened in neighbouring Wexford. So the British were
     getting ready for the next one.
     In 1848, the Young Irelanders targeted Kilkenny in
     their insurrection. But they never got beyond a farm
     house in rural Tipperary. However, one of them- James
     Stephens, who was actually born in the barracks,
     eventually had his name bestowed on it. Nice...
     During the Irish revolution, Kilkenny saw more action
     than it had since Cromwell. The surrounding countryside
     was particularly active during the 1919-21 independence
     struggle. Two IRA men were killed in a botched ambush
     around the city Friary too.
     Then, in 1922, Kilkenny staged a kind of rehersal for
     the impending Civil War. Several key buildings were
     occupied by IRA forces protesting what they saw as the
     Treaty sell-out.
     The same thing was happening all over Ireland. The
     difference in Kilkenny was that the shooting started
     and finished before the rest of the country.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 7.

     The occupation of the Castle by IRA forces was
     particularly hard for the newly formed Kilkenny
     battalion to deal with.
     Since the fourteenth century, the Castle had been owned
     by the Butlers of Ormonde- a particularly loyal
     aristocratic family. During the 1922 siege, the Earl of
     Ossory, Butler in residence, stayed in the Castle with
     Lady Ossory and their dog while the battle raged. His
     account of the event reeks of British snobbery towards
     the two warring factions.
     What’s worse.. The IRA men continously referred to him
     as "the boss" during the whole episode.

Ah lads..

     And even worse than that.. Ossory demanded that
     the  new Irish governemnt pay for the damage they did
     to the Castle during their attack.. And they ended up
     paying!
     AH LADS!
SOUND: SIREN FADES IN
DERMOT
     It was now around an hour since I’d woken up from the
     nightmare. I looked at Facebook and Twitter to see if
     anyone in digital Kilkenny was noticing what was going
     on. There were a few tweets.. But not as many as I
     would have thought. I let one go myself:
     @DerTobin: Dreaming about WW3 only to wake up to the
     Civil Defence Siren in #Kilkenny at 4.50am. Absolutely
     surreal
     What’s really strange, and only something I noticed
     when I was putting this together, was the last tweet I
     had posted about three days previously. It was a link
     to a Washington Post article about the history "Air
     Raid Sirens"...
     Curious..
SOUND: DISTANT BANSHEE WAIL

DERMOT

     Although the siren was still blaring.. I was starting
     to get sleepy again. So I climbed the stairs and got
     back into bed.
SOUND: SIREN STOPS SUDDENLY

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 8.

DERMOT
     Suddenly the siren stopped. You know the moment of
     relief when a seemingly incessant sound.. ceases.
     I started drifting back to sleep, wondering what could
     have caused the siren to go off in the first place.
SOUND: BIRDS TWEETING, TOAST POPPING
DERMOT
     The next day I contacted the military press office to
     see if they could provide an explanation. The soldier
     who answered seemed reluctant to answer my questions.
     Instead, she recommended that I submit an email. So
     that someone could pour over them with a fine toothcomb
     I presume.
     The official military response landed in my inbox a few
     hours later.
MILITARY OFFICER
     Almost all military barracks and facilities at home and
     overseas have some form of audible alarm system. It is
     either used to indicate a defensive requirement for the
     post or sometimes to re-call Military Personnel in the
     locality to the Barracks. Many barracks test these
     alarms for a few seconds from time to time and at a
     time of the day so as not to disturb local residents.
     In the case of Stephens Bks Kilkenny, a technical fault
     caused the alarm to sound in the early hours of the
     morning. I understand members of the garrison have been
     on local media apologising for this inconvenience.
DERMOT
     Strange.. The Garda on the phone had called it the
     Civil Defence Siren. But the military made no reference
     to that. This siren is designed to call the troops in
     when Cromwell and the New Model are on the horizon, or
     when the IRA take over the castle.
     So there’s nothing for the average citizen to do.. No
     particular protocol we should follow.. No preparing for
     emergency evacuation.. Nothing.. Just.. listen.
SOUND: DISTANT SIREN
DERMOT
     The Irish Civil Defence does exist. It was set up in
     1950 as a volunteer corps to assist front line services
     during big emergencies. It often gets sent out during
     bad flooding and other such incidents.
     Originally though, it’s purpose was to prepare for the
     Big One. In 1965, the Civil Defence published Bás

(MORE)

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 9.

DERMOT (cont’d)
     Beatha, a 55 page booklet on how citizens should handle
     the end of the world.
          (READING INSTRUCTIONS. RURAL IRISH ACCENTS)
MAN
     When you hear the FINAL WARNING you know that fall-out
     has started, or is about to start. If you have fires in
     grates or boilers extinguish them. Turn off your water
     supply at the stopcock and any gas or electric heaters
     in use. Go into your refuge room immediately (even if
     your preperations are incomplete). Bring your radio set
     with you or make sure it can be heard in the refuge
     room
WOMAN
     The power of a nuclear weapon is measured in kilotons
     and megatons.
MAN
     Here is a general description of the probable effects
     of a one-megaton weapon exploded at, or near, ground
     level.
     The explosion would produce
     A BLINDING FLASH
     lasting some seconds, accompanied by
WOMAN
     A SEARING HEAT
     and followed, some seconds later, by
MAN
     A HURRICANE-LIKE BLAST
WOMAN
     You have to eat, even in the midst of a nuclear war.
     But your meals will seldom be cooked. Cooking uses up
     air and makes the enclosed atmosphere of the refuge
     room heavy with odours. Your stock of food will be made
     up of tinned goods and other foods which require little
     or no cooking.
MAN
     Here are suggestions for your emergency food stock
WOMAN
     Tinned Meat

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: 10.

MAN
     Tinned Fish
WOMAN
     Tinned Vegetables
MAN
     Tinned Fruit
WOMAN
     Tinned or packet soups

MAN
Tea

WOMAN Sugar

MAN
Butter

END