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.

Our photo was taken in Castletownshend, near Skibbereen, Co Cork. It shows Bryan Murray as Flurry Knox and Peter Bowles as Major Yeates.

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:

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