By Cathal Coyle
Ballykissangel was one of the most memorable Irish television shows of the past thirty years; and during the late Nineties, it was eagerly anticipated each Sunday evening by audiences across Ireland. The show was created by Kieran Prendiville and produced by BBC Northern Ireland; it aired on both BBC and RTÉ from 1996 to 2001.
It is thought that the name of the fictional village in which the show was set is derived from Ballykissane, a townland near Killorglin in County Kerry, where Prendiville’s father hailed from. In the opening credits of the programme, the village’s name in Irish is shown as Baile Coisc Aingeal, which means “The town of the fallen angel”, displayed on the sign outside the post office.
Filming took place in the beautiful Vale of Avoca area of County Wicklow; indeed, the village of Avoca was used extensively, especially for Fitzgerald’s Pub, the church, the shops and Garda Station. Other locations used for the filming of Ballykissangel in County Wicklow included Enniskerry and Brittas Bay Beach.
Ballykissangel aired for six seasons, however the show faced a decline in ratings from a peak level of ten million viewers to less than half of that – and was cancelled in 2001. The series initially revolved around a young English priest as he became part of a close-knit rural community.
Father Peter Clifford – played by Stephen Tomkinson (who also played the lead role in other popular television shows such as DCI Banks) has transferred from Manchester to the small, remote village of Ballykissangel or ‘BallyK’ as it is affectionately referred to by locals.