Remembering the delusive but well-meaning Fr Ted Crilly

Three clueless ‘priests’ living on Craggy Island have kept us all laughing since Father Ted hit TV screens in 1995. JOANNE SAVAGE recalls such ecumenical matters, the effortless chalice work and the Holy Stone of Clonrichert

Friday, 19th November 2021, 3:11 pm
Updated Friday, 19th November 2021, 3:12 pm
Father Ted Crilly (the late Dermot Morgan) may not have really cut it as a priest, but he always meant well, and we're still laughing both with and at him, God bless us

Can there be a TV series that more profoundly critiqued the Catholic Church and Irish social mores with more wit and hilarity than Graham Linehan’s Father Ted?

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There was Dermot Morgan as the well meaning but sadly rather theologically challenged Father Ted Crilly, benighted by the idiocy of Dougal (Ardal O’Hanlon) and the raging alcoholic Father Jack, who could barely articulate other than scream ‘Drink!’ or in one famed episode when he met senior members of the clergy: ‘That would be an ecumenical matter!’

Though the show ran from 1995 until 1998 it is now a profound part of the cultural consciousness and it made even the devout among us think about the ways in which faith had become bureaucratised and ritualised to the point of near witlessness, so that here was a sofa with an actual tapestry of the Messiah on it. Here were three priests living on Craggy Island who didn’t really seem to know anything about the gospels or indeed have any interest in disseminating it, because in fact there lives had been taken over by the terrible burden of living under the pretence of being holy men. But they barely mentioned God at all, what with having endless cups of tea with Mrs Doyle, or dealing with the visiting corrupt bishop looking for a divine vision on a skirting board, or clergymen trying to upgrade the Holy Stone of Clonrichert to a grade two relic, or mad, miserable holidays spent in an Irish caravan so crammed with people it keeled over when they started doing actual Irish dancing. Then too there was the bizarre case of two ‘priests’ who were profoundly besotted with Nazi memorabilia, or another ‘priest’ who had next to nothing to say about Jesus, but did know how to witter on about his favourite buzzing noise, or Father Stone, who would very much have converted people to atheism because he was that boring an example of somebody who had dedicated their life to the propagation of the ‘Good News’ , which surely should be a matter of profound, ecstatic joy.

‘Ah,’ said one priest watching another on TV. ‘He gives good Mass. Look at that chalice work - effortless.’ It makes you wonder, if Jesus ever did return, would he want anything to do with these ‘ecumenical matters’?