To mark the twentieth anniversary of the final episode of Glenroe in May, 2001, Maxi looks back on the Sunday night show that gave us so many memorable characters and storylines.
Born in the brain of Wesley Burrows, the author, playwright, song and scriptwriter, Glenroe had its origins in two previous television dramas on RTÉ, The Riordans and Bracken.
Wesley was born in Bangor, Co. Down. He had enjoyed great success on the theatre stage with the musical Carrie which he co-wrote with long- time friends, Michael Coffey and James Douglas. It was performed in the Olympia Theatre, and at the Dublin Theatre Festival. It starred Milo O’Shea, Ray McAnally and David Kelly.
He continued to have success with the plays And All The People Rejoiced, A Loud Bang On June The First’ and Affluence, which was produced by the Irish Theatre Company. This experience allowed Wesley to fine hone his writing and depiction of dramatis personae.
He was interested in character-driven works more than topic-driven pieces. With this in mind three of the characters of Glenroe were created. Dinny Byrne was a wily dodger of a man and Miley, his naïve son, both expertly captured on screen by Joe Lynch and Mick Lally.
The third important character in this triumvirate, and the secret of the magical dynamic, was Biddy McDermott, perfectly played by Mary McEvoy. Biddy was the epitome of young vibrant go-ahead farmers of the day, who were energetic and open to all new ideas. There, with the perfect cocktail of contrast and credibility, is the stuff of riveting drama. So, let’s walk down memory lane and recall this unforgettable series.
in episode one, the vewers join the action as Dinny and Miley arrive in Glenroe. Dinny was a bit of a trickster who would try his hand at anything to make money and Miley, when first met by Biddy McDermott, was described by her as ‘a bit soft’.
Biddy herself is a smart lady who is close to her recently widowed mother, Mary, portrayed by Geraldine Plunkett. They are the already established residents of the village before the horizon widens and we are introduced to George, the man with the English accent, whose family have been in the area for 300 years and are an integral part of the tapestry of Irish country life.
The priest, Father Devereux, who tries and fails to outwit the snake- in-the-grass Dinny at every turn and Teasy, the buxom glamourous owner of the all-important meeting place, the pub.
As the visual landscape widens, we are gently introduced to other rich characters in the circle. Dick Moran, (Emmet Bergin) is the local solicitor and developer.
He is dashingly handsome, married and deeply attracted to Mary. Their affair is conducted away from the eyes of the locals, but in full view of the watching television audience.