1 9 9 6 – 2 0 0 1 (UK)
Father Peter Clifford, an enthusiastic but naive Roman Catholic priest, knew that his new posting to St Joseph’s church in the town of Ballykissangel (he was transferred from Manchester, England) would be a trying experience from the moment he set eyes on the community.
His superior, Father MacAnally, like the rest of the neighbourhood, was a traditionalist and had not moved with the times, and the people of the town were God-fearing but loathed the clergy.
The archetypal fish out of water, this modern-thinking priest quickly needed to grasp the off-beat logic of the colourful townsfolk and learn all about their different way of life. To do so, he leant heavily on the town’s feisty publican, Assumpta Fitzgerald, landlady of Fitzgerald’s Bar.
Their relationship was stormy but always threatened to break into romance, with all the complications that an affair between a priest and a publican could bring. Even Assumpta’s marriage to journalist Leo failed to break the undeclared bond that existed between her and the priest.
Clifford also needed to come to terms with town’s Mr Big, the conniving Brian Quigley, the only man (apart from Clifford) with an eye to the future – not to mention a fast punt.
After three hugely successful seasons stars Stephen Tompkinson and Dervla Kirwan decided to leave the series.
After a traumatic finale in which Peter expressed his feelings for Assumpta, only to see her die in his arms after electrocution, the priest decided to seek pastures new.
His position at the church was filled by former monk Father Aidan O’Connell, but more attention was given to other new arrivals; unpopular widower Sean Dillon, a self-made man returning home after 20 years; his 17-year-old daughter Emma; and Orla, the new priest’s attractive but worldly-wise sister. Fitzgerald’s Bar was bought by Quigley.
The series was the brainchild of former Tomorrow’s World presenter Kieran Prendiville, who also scripted many episodes. It drew comparisons with the American series Northern Exposure, so similar was its premise of a stranded man struggling to cope in a totally alien, and rather kooky, environment.
Although loosely based on clerical goings-on in the real-life village of Ballykissanne, County Kerry, where Prendiville spent holidays as a child, Ballykissangel was filmed in Avoca, a sleepy County Wicklow town that soon became a major tourist attraction.
Father Peter Clifford
Aine Ni Mhuiri
Father Aidan O’Connell