Seán Creedon takes a trip down radio’s Memory Lane and looks at some of the Soap Operas that had Irish listeners glued to the airwaves beginning with…The Kennedys of Castleross
My mother who was a homemaker/farmer’s wife in East Kerry in the forties, fifties and sixties, would often say that she preferred a short play to a film. Indeed she loved when the touring companies visited our local hall.
But I think the ‘Fit-Ups’ only visited our part of the country during Lent and so the radio was the first outlet for my mother to listen to a radio play and she loved The Kennedys of Castleross, the first radio drama on Radió Éireann.
For as long as I remember we had a radio in the house, long before the arrival of the ESB. My parents loved almost everything on Radió Éireann; news, sport, sponsored programmes, Question Time with Joe Linnane, The Balladmakers Saturday Night and Din Joe’s famous Take the Floor.
The long-running Archers series was first aired on BBC Radio 4 in January 1951, and four years later RTE got its first radio play with the arrival of the Kennedys of Castleross, which was broadcast from 1.00pm to 1.15pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The series was devised by the Arks advertising agency on behalf of its client Fry-Cadbury and was based on the happenings at a grocer’s shop on Kevin Street, Castleross.
The shop was owned by a widow named Mrs Kennedy. It was reported that Marie Kean, who played the part of Mrs Kennedy, was paid three guineas per episode, while the rest of the cast got thirty shillings each. The script writers were reported to be paid eight guineas per episode.
On the internet I found an ad for Fry’s Bourn-vita drink; it was part of a promo for The Kennedys and in it Christy was saying to Peadar Mahony that he was thinking of giving up farming as three of his cattle had died. That had me thinking that there was a strong farming angle, which may have why the radio drama was compulsive listening for my parents.