It’s been two decades since Channel 4 aired the first episode of a comedy caper about three Catholic priests and a housekeeper, marooned off the west coast of Ireland. And we’re running a special week of features to celebrate.
Despite not striking anyone as an instantly-winning formula, Father Ted ran for three hilarious series and deeply ingrained itself as one of the best-loved comedies ever.
To honour the 20 year landmark since the first airing of Good Luck, Father, in April 1995, we’ve gathered 20 of our favourite clerical figures from the series. We’re not talking Ted, Dougal or Jack, but more the minor ‘men of the cloth’ that made up the extended Ted universe.
Make yourself a cup of tea and take a look at this madcap collection of Craggy Island clergy. Go on, go on, go on, go on.
1. Father Dick Byrne
Ted’s Rugged Island colleague and arch-nemesis. The tense rivalry between the two silver-haired clergymen comes to boiling point in a few episodes, perhaps most famously in A Song For Europe – which sees the two pitted against other for the chance to be Ireland’s Eurovision Song Contest entry. Ted comes up trumps, despite Dick’s incredible singing voice and song-writing abilities.
2. Father Fitzgerald & 3. Father Reilly
When commandeering a rescue mission of a platoon of priests from a lingerie section (Ireland’s biggest lingerie department, I understand), Ted seeks help from the most boring voice available. Father Fitzgerald comes to the rescue with a voice he describes himself as ‘awful dreary’. Father Reilly looks to help, but his voice is clearly too dynamic and his interruption is indeed ‘impetuous’. Lingerie stranded Father Clearly also deserves an honorary mention from this Christmas special A Christmassy Ted, for managing to injure while fiddling with a bra strap.
4. Father Barty Dunne
Barty Dunne hosts the “All Priests Stars in Their Eyes Lookalike Competition” in Competition Time. He is known for his signature laugh, and crippling inability to actually finish any sentence without breaking down in..heh heh heh..before…the old…heh heh.
5. Father Fintan Stack
Father Stack made just one appearance in the second series of Ted, but it proved to be a memorable one. When a bout of ‘Hairy Hands Syndrome’ sees Father Jack sent to an elderly priests home, Stack appears as his replacement – and turns out to be far more unbearable to live with. Stack passes his time by drilling holes in walls and listening to Jungle music at 3am, a low even Hitler wouldn’t reach according to Ted. Brendan Grace’s portrayal of the nightmare priest proved popular with fans, who voted the episode New Jack City the best ever at the inaugural ‘Tedfest’.
6. Father Noel Furlong
Before becoming chat-show host and prime-time BBC staple, Graham Norton was best known for his sporadic Ted appearances as Father Noel Furlong. Noel’s chatty nature, apparent lack of need and jokes about eating youth group members in order to survive meant that he was not a particularly popular figure with Ted and Dougal. Noel’s third and final appearance in The Mainland sees him buried under rubble following a ‘screaming competition’ in a cave. The end credits show him passing the time singing Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’.
7. Father Jessup
Proud holder of the title ‘most sarcastic priest in Ireland’, Ian Fitzgibbon’s portayal of Father Jessup in the episode Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse is slightly over-shadowed by the aforementioned incident – but his curt delivery of the line ‘No! I’m up in space doing important work for NASA!’ is a particular highlight of his dedicated commitment to the lowest form of wit.
8. Father Beeching
The most committed priest in a cast-list that includes some questionable commitment to Catholicism. When rogue milkman Pat Mustard plants a bomb on Dougal’s milk truck in Speed 3, Ted calls in Father Beeching and Father Clarke to help him devise a plan to save Dougal’s life. Father Beeching’s big idea to help is to perform Mass on the back of a trailer, directly next to the milk truck. His follow-up suggestion of ‘is there anything to be said for saying another Mass?’ has gone down in the show’s folklore. Speed 3 was voted ‘best ever episode’ in a Channel 4 poll in 2011.
9. Father Liam Finnegan
The world famous dancing priest, who once danced from New York to Los Angeles in the promotion of peace and goodwill (which resulted in him being mugged on average every fifteen miles). This particularly rhythmic clergymen appears in Think Fast Father Ted as the unwitting accessory to a fixed raffle. After Ted leaves his parochial house, Finnegan is struck by a heart attack brought on by his excessive dancing.
10. Father Romeo Sensini
Father Ted’s chances of coaching a team to success in the ‘All-Priests five-a-side Over-75’s Indoor Challenge Football Match’ in Escape From Victory look to be scuppered with the arrival of the Italian priest on Father Dick Byrne’s team. Romeo Sensini had been capped for the Vatican’s over-75s indoor team, can handle two flights of stairs unattended, needs just one nun to get him out of a chair and only drinks very, very fine wine.
11. Father Kevin
Despite being more known for his passionate comedy performances, a fresh-faced Tommy Tiernan appears in the final ever episode Going to America as meek and mild Father Kevin. The depressed priest is rescued from a window ledge by Ted, who then manages to cheer him up using the theme from the film Shaft. His sunny disposition is quickly eroded on the bus home however, when Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ plays on the radio.
12. Father Brian Eno
Possibly the finest clergy cameo, also saved for the final ever episode. Despite only a brief moment on screen, Father Brian Eno is a brilliantly absurd addition to the ‘It’s Great Being A Priest ’98’ conference.
13. Father Paul Stone
The titular character of Entertaining Father Stone, writer Arthur Mathews’ favourite episode. Father Stone’s unremitting commitment to boredom and inability to hold a stimulating conversation make him a nightmare of a guest. Ted and Dougal try various ruses to make Father Stone leave, but to no avail, until Ted prays and Father Stone is subsequently struck by lightning on a crazy golf course. Michael Redmond’s deadpan comedy-style made him a perfect fit for the painfully awkward priest.
14. Father Larry Duff
Ted’s long-time friend and possibly the unluckiest man in the priesthood. Larry Duff appears sporadically throughout the three series and is often rang at inopportune moments, resulting in him driving off a cliff, being trampled by donkeys, savaged by rottweilers and trapped under an avalanche. Ted describes him as ‘enormous fun’.
15. Father Tiernan, 16. Rafter, 17. Cafferty and 18. Leonard.
A brief appearance in Think Fast, Father Ted – which included a cameo by both of the show’s writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews. When stuck for some light entertainment at the raffle, Ted calls up the four priests to do a ‘couple of numbers’. Instead of playing into the stereotype of Irish singing priests, the group turn out to be a dark electronic Kraftwerk-style outfit. An underrated Ted moment.
19. Father Billy O’Dwyer
Billy O’Dwyer (AKA ‘The Spinmaster) is Ted’s choice for top DJ for the raffle in Think Fast, Father Ted. The trouble is Father O’Dwyer has forgotten all his records, except for The Specials ‘Ghost Town’ – and his serious addiction to gambling is set off by Ted’s insistence he purchases a raffle ticket.
20. Father Damo (Whistle thief)
Even in the long-list of holy reprobates in the entire show, Father Damo in Old Grey Whistle Theft is a notable rebel without a cause. The slick-haired Oasis fan befriends Father Dougal and instantly proves a bad influence, leading Ardal O’Hanlon’s character to get his ear pierced before attempting to frame him for the theft of a groundkeeper’s whistle. Pure evil.
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