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Cheryl Hughes: Connections of an Unexpected Kind

Natalie in front of Father Ted's house.

“Father Ted” is one of my favorite British comedies.  I discovered it years ago when my daughters were still living at home.  They loved it like I did.  The show is about three miscreant priest who live in a fictional place in Ireland called Craigy Island.  One of our favorite episodes involves a misunderstanding in which Father Ted is accused of being racist.  He is constantly being confronted by people who say things like, “I hear you’re a racist, Father.  What is the church’s stance on the matter?  Should we all be racists now?”

Ted goes to great lengths to prove otherwise, but things don’t exactly go his way.  He holds a community meeting at the local bar, Vaughn’s Pub, complete with slide show, to demonstrate the importance of inclusion.  Unbeknownst to Ted, his housekeeper is back at his house hanging Third Reich flags, which have been sent to him by a fellow priest, who was a Nazi sympathizer.  Ted invites everybody back to his place to finish out the evening, and you can imagine the fallout.

On the Sunday before we flew home from Ireland, we toured the Cliffs of Moher.  Our daughter, Natalie, was researching the area and realized the filming locations for “Father Ted” were in the area.  We were close to Vaughn’s Pub, so we headed there first.  The pub is situated in Kilfenora, County Claire, and it is a very local bar.  When the six of us walked in, everybody turned and looked.  It would be like 6 Irish tourists walking into the Farm Boy.

After we were seated, and we ordered, the people at the next table, realizing we were Americans, started a conversation.  We talked about the local food and the soccer match on TV before the conversation turned to the similarities and differences between our two cultures.  The impression the woman had of the US came from TV shows she watched, which portrayed most Americans as packing handguns and taking drugs.  

“The only gun I’ve ever seen is my grandfather’s hunting rifle,” the woman said.  Garey and Thomas, our son-in-law, told her that most of their guns were hunting guns, as well.

“I’ve never even seen cocaine or heroin,” she said, a bit hesitantly.

“We haven’t either,” we all responded in unison.  Everybody laughed.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me.  We were sitting in Vaughn’s Pub, where the fictional Father Ted had struggled to prove he wasn’t a racist, trying to convince a little Irish woman that all Americans weren’t pistol packing drug addicts.

After we left the pub, Nikki and Thomas looked up the location of the Father Ted house, where the three fictional priests lived.  We stopped at the nearby visitor’s center to make sure the directions were accurate.  There was a young Irish girl behind the counter, and when she learned we were looking for the house, she told us a story about her grandfather and the filming of the show.  

In the first season, the production crew sent out a call for extras to play priests in one of the first episodes.  The girl’s grandfather, being a very religious man, decided he would fit the bill.  After all, a show about three priests would surely be something he would be proud to be associated with.  When the irreverent show aired, her grandfather was livid, and refused to ever watch the show again.  His granddaughter thought it was hilarious, as did we.  

Assured that we had accurate directions, we set off to find Ted’s house.  The road to the house is narrow, with hedge rows on both sides, but as we rounded the last curve, the house came into full view.  It was like being transported back in time.  The house is huge and looked exactly like it does in the show.  The house is privately owned, and the surrounding fence and gate is as far as you can access the property, but we were able to get great pictures from the road. Natalie, Nikki and I could not stop smiling.  

“Father Ted” ran for only three seasons.  Sadly, the main character, Dermet Morgan, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 45, in 1998, and the show was canceled.  

You never know what kind of connections you will make because of another interaction, even an interaction with a fictional character.  I’ve thought a lot about the Irish woman in Vaughn’s Pub and the granddaughter of the “extra priest” we met while searching for Father Ted.  As the young priest on the show, Dougal McGuire, would say, “That’s mad, Ted!”

(You can see “Father Ted” on streaming services like Prime, YouTube and Freevee.  It’s worth a look.)   


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