Miley gets the last word as `Glenroe' bows out

 

Three funerals, nine weddings, 16 pregnancies and God knows how many "Well, holy Gods" after its first showing in September 1983, Ireland's longest running soap opera, Glenroe, bowed out last night.

There was no dramatic finale, no apocalyptic event to mark the end of an era in Irish broadcasting. Instead, an expected three-quarters of a million-plus viewers tuned in to see Miley return to his former home, Bracken, where his journey, and that of a nation of couch potatoes, began 18 years ago.

The programme's creator, Wesley Burrowes, originally wanted to call the series The Blow-Ins, so taken was he with the theme of interlopers in a tight-knit community. Obviously, he, like many others, hadn't foreseen the success of the series, or considered that the original blow-ins - Miley and his father Dinny (Joe Lynch) - would become as synonymous with their adopted village as its scandalous affairs.

Miley's alter-ego, Mick Lally, was one of only four actors to stay with the series from the first episode, the others being Geraldine Plunkett (Mary), Emmet Bergin (Dick) and Robert Carrickford (Stephen).

In its day, Glenroe could attract an audience of half the population, and trigger controversy the likes of which we shall probably never see again from a soap. Conor and Fidelma's sex scene in January 1994 led to cries for RTE's censure. Those easily offended had salt rubbed in their wounds the following year when Miley went for a roll in the hay with the baby-sitter.

But Glenroe's day has long gone - at least, that was the view of RTE when it made its decision earlier this year to bring down the axe. Average audience figures have almost halved in the past six seasons from 989,000 in 1995/96 to 599,000 in 2000/01.

The fall is even more dramatic when compared to the heady days of February 1991, when a record 1.6 million viewers watched Carmel arrive in Glenroe with a child, rumoured to be Miley's illegitimate son. He wasn't, however, and in real life the boy was played by Mick Lally's son, Darach.

In an episode full of nostalgia, there was a hint last night that Dick and Mary's long and turbulent relationship was finally coming full circle. Proving there's still hope for us all, Trickie Dicky - following three affairs, including a mother and daughter combination - was invited back into Mary's home with a bunch of flowers.

But the last word, fittingly, went to Miley - and there are no prizes for guessing what it was.