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The Wexford Whale
Written, directed, animated and edited by David Begley.

© David Begley 2022

Music and sound design © Ruah Pearson 2022

The Wexford Whale

‘The Wexford Whale’ is a 12 minute animation directed by David Begley featuring drawings by David and 5th and 6th class pupils of Scoil Mhuire National School, Rosslare. The film’s evocative soundtrack was created by Ruah Pearson and includes a voice recording by Richard Sabin, principal curator of mammals at The Natural History Museum, London.

The film is based on the story of the 25 metre blue whale captured by Lifeboat pilot Ned Wickham outside Wexford harbour in March 1891. The skeleton of the whale named 'Hope' hangs in the Hintze Hall of The Natural History Museum, London.



The film had its first Irish screening on Friday 17th of June at Rosslare Festival. See images and clips from behind the scenes here




Drawing for 'The Wexford Whale' 

Driftwood charcoal on Fabriano Tiepolo

23 x 40cm

© David Begley 2022

The Wexford Whale project began in April 2021 when David gathered driftwood at The Burrow, Rosslare and Rosslare Harbour in order to bake driftwood charcoal for the Scoil Mhuire children to draw with. Assisted by Nadia Corridan, David facilitated drawing and animation workshops at the school to explore the story of Ned Wickham, a 23 year old lifeboat pilot, and the 25 metre blue whale he captured at the mouth of Wexford Harbour in 1891. The children learned about the history, heritage and culture of Rosslare Fort, discovered facts about the whale and about Ned Wickham's life. They enjoyed drawing at the Burrow beach, Rosslare – reimagining Wickham's first sighting of the whale – drew scenes from the story of the whale, learned how to animate in charcoal and created astonishing work. 

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Drawing for 'The Wexford Whale' 

Driftwood charcoal on Fabriano Tiepolo

21 x 29cm

Drawing by 5th class pupil of Scoil Mhuire N.S. Rosslare, County Wexford

See exhibition of children's drawings here

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6th class pupils of Scoil Mhuire National School, Rosslare, County Wexford, June 2021

Following the school project, David began drawing his animated scenes in November 2021 and completed them in March 2022. Working on single sheets of paper, David adjusted and photographed the same drawing hundreds of times to create motion. To read more about this process and see images and clips from behind the scenes click here

Drawing a single frame for The Wexford Whale


24 frames - the same drawing adjusted 24 times and photographed after each change. Every aspect of the wave is altered slightly each time. This is a slow process – these 24 frames took 4 hours to draw and will create 2 - 3 seconds of animation. A short wave scene at the beginning of the film took one week to draw.

Driftwood charcoal on Fabriano paper

© David Begley 2022

See how the film was made at behind the scenes


Archival prints (stills) of David Begley's drawings from The Wexford Whale are available here 

Each print is signed by David and printed on Hahnemühle fine art 100% cotton rag paper.


Before creating the film’s evocative score, Ruah Pearson chose the cello as her key instrument due to parallels drawn between a large, low-pitched instrument and an enormous mammal with its deep calls. The soundtrack combines cello with ambient recordings of the sea, sea life, and recordings made at the Hintze Hall in London’s Natural History Museum as well as fantastic voice recordings from Scoil Mhuire N.S. pupils for the film’s crowd scene. 

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Ruah Pearson recording ambient crowd noise at The Natural History Museum, London


Ruah talks of her process in creating the score:

"My early research, before I had seen the finished animations, led to a cello arrangement of the ‘Hantoon’, a lament from the published collection Songs of The Wexford Coast which had been suggested to David by Andrea Doyle of the Rosslare Ancestry Project. There’s a strong link between the title of the song, referring to the wreck of a vessel the ‘Hantoon’ in 1881 and the Hantoon channel off Rosslare fort where the whale beached in 1891. 


For the next compositional phase of the project I worked in response to the visuals which David was sending me, scene by scene and the challenge was to strike the right tone for each point of the storyline - which is an emotional rollercoaster! Themes gradually emerged for different points, the first of which being our Wonder theme - a light, skipping idea used to portray the wonder of the ocean, being played over David’s animations of a swimming jellyfish and alongside it our first sighting of the majestic whale. A later Moonlit theme is heard at the poignant stage when the whale, stranded in the bay, has become weak and stopped her struggles. For this moment of acceptance and stillness I used a lyrical melody played in the lower cello register over slowly shifting chords."


The sea in motion, February 2022

Driftwood charcoal on Fabriano paper

© David Begley 2022

Liffey Corner/EPIC Museum, Dublin, during Heritage Week 13-21 August 2022

Rosslare Harbour Festival: Friday 17 June 2022 at 3.30pm

Amgueddfa Ceredigion (Ceredigion museum), Aberystwyth, Wales
May 14 - June 25 2022. 

Run time 12 minutes. Suitable for all ages.

See clips and visit Behind the Scenes

Read the Tale of the Whale

See drawings made by 5th and 6th class pupils here!

Thank you

David would like to thank Andrea Doyle of The Rosslare Ancestry Project, Des Peare, Leo Coy at Rosslare Harbour Maritime Heritage Centre, Billy Doyle at Rosslare Burrow Lifeboat Memorial, Gerry Wickham, Richard Sabin at The Natural History Museum, London, Nadia Corridan, Francis Long, Gráinne Doran archivist at Wexford County Council, Imogen Stafford and Gilles Lohier, teachers Liam Lawlor, Eilish Kavanagh, SNA Aileen McGee and principal Anne Marie Carthy at Scoil Mhuire for all their help and support during the project. 

The Wexford Whale is a 'Creative Connections Ports Past Present' project.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme.

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