From the archive: May 1982
Published: May 8th 1982
Photograph by Paddy Whelan
Irish actors and Irish locations are practically a permanent fixture on international television these days. But before there was Game of Thrones, before there was Ripper Street, before there was Quirke – before there was Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders, even – there was The Irish RM.
Based on a series of comic novels by Somerville and Ross, the series ran for three years in the early 1980s. It featured a stiff-upper-lipped, decent, honourable Englishman, Major Sinclair Yeates, living amongst the eccentric, quirky, whimsical Irish – who, naturally, ran rings around him at every opportunity.
Bowles is looking disapproving – as his role required him to do quite a lot – but his stern expression is mitigated by the delightful presence of a nearby tree branch, which looks as if it’s stuck jauntily into his hat.
Facing him, in every sense of the word, is a young Bryan Murray. Perfectly cast as cheeky chappie Flurry Knox, he was joined in the production by his fellow Irish actors Anna Manahan as a redoubtable housekeeper and Niall Tóibín as a sly groom.
It all looks so stereotyped now that it’s hard to believe there was such excitement about The Irish RM at the time. Bowles and Murray, however, made a lively pairing, and continued their partnership in the ITV series Perfect Scoundrels, in which they played a pair of con-men.
Eventually, of course, Murray would go on to make telly soap history in Brookside as the man who buried his missus under the patio. Bowles returned to the stage for many years – though he makes an appearance in the film Lilting, by the British-born Cambodian director Hong Khaou, which won great praise all round at this year’s Sundance Festival.
Thankfully, after a summer of sport and repeats – sorry, “second chance to catch” – the new season’s telly drama is almost upon us. Bearing, no doubt, a concatenation of stories old and new.
This and other photographs from The Irish Times can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales