Father Ted is a situation comedy produced by Hat Trick Productions for the UK’s Channel 4 and written by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan. It was initially aired from 21 April 1995 until 1 May 1998, but has been broadcast continually ever since, winning new generations of fans.
It was set in the remote fictional Craggy Island parish off the west coast of Ireland, near Kilfenora. The show followed the lives of Father Ted Crilly (the late Dermot Morgan) and his fellow priests, Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O’Hanlon) and Father Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly), who are exiled on the island, living together in the parochial house with the fourth main character, housekeeper Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn).
The show ran for a total of 25 episodes. The first series comprised 6 episodes, with the second series running for 10 episodes. A Christmas special, A Christmassy Ted, then aired before a third series of 8 episodes. Dermot Morgan died unexpectedly on 28 February 1998 age 45, a day after filming the last episode, leaving the entire final series to be broadcast posthumously. No further shows in the franchise were ever commissioned, the writers having stated that the third series had already been planned to be the last.
All the interior scenes were shot at The London Studios, while exterior filming was at various locations in Ireland. Many episodes were filmed in and around Kilfenora and nearby Ennistymon. See for example the scenes with the ‘Chinese pub’, the ‘Lovely Girls competition’, the bomb-laden milkfloat, the song sequence about ‘My Lovely Horse’, the caravan park at Fanore – and of course the ‘Parochial House’ itself (at Glenquin, near Kilnaboy). The aerial shot of ‘Craggy Island’ in the opening credits shows the wreck of the Plassey cargo ship on Inisheer, the nearest of the Aran Islands to the Clare coast.
In 1995 and 1998 the show won the BAFTA award for Best Comedy, while Morgan won a BAFTA in 1998 for Best Comedy Performance, and McLynn the Top TV Comedy Actress award at the British Comedy Awards in 1996. Having achieved a cult following, since 2007 the Ted Fest, a Father Ted fan convention, has been held annually.
The theme tune for the series was written and performed by The Divine Comedy, who also released a B-side of “My Lovely Horse”, a song written during the episode “Song for Europe”. The series was responsible for propelling a number of other actors and comedians into the limelight, including Graham Norton, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, Tommy Tiernan, Patrick McDonnell, Don Wycherley, Joe Rooney, Jason Byrne, Ed Byrne, Brendan Grace and Gerard McSorley. Richard Wilson of ‘Victor Meldrew’ fame also made an appearance.
In 2008, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of lead actor Dermot Morgan’s untimely death, a festival was held in Kilfenora, as is commemorated by a plaque at the Kilfenora Community Hall. Scripwriters Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews gave a talk during the festival and explained that, in their view, “Kilfenora and Ennistymon are the real Craggy Island”.
A further celebratory festival took place in May 2011 and 2012. The festival is again being held in May 2013. See the Father Ted Festival page for more information.