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Of Art and Apparitions

Ballylenon, Series 8 Episode 2 of 6

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 02 February 2011

Ballylenon, County Donegal. Pop. 1,999 was founded by St Lenon of Padua, when he fell into the river at this spot in 953. Ballylenon is situated on the shores of Lough Swilly with entrancing views of Muckish Mountain, in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe. (Note: Ballylenon is a fictional name, but the other landmarks are identifiable.)

In this society, there exists an uneasy balance of interests. Communication has all the appearances of power, and in Ballylenon, communication means the local Telephone Exchange and Post Office. Both these are firmly in the control of sisters, Vera and Muriel McConkey, who in cahoots with hotelier and funeral undertaker, Phonsie Doherty, would seek to rule the roost in Ballylenon. However, other forces have their own guiding principles, and where the McConkey sisters and Mr Doherty, aided by The Vindicator, would dominate reactionary thinking, a dangerous liberal tendency is championed by Vivienne and Rev. Samuel Hawthorne, and the somewhat unlikely, Guard Gallagher. The antagonism between these camps is only ever thinly veiled.

In this brand new series, Christopher Fitz-Simon takes a jocose but jaundiced look at 1960's Ireland, where we discover
Muriel McConachie , 62. Spinster remnant of a family once active in politics, Muriel inherited the corner shop and, due to her Councillor father's influence, has the Post Office franchise. Known as the eyes of Ballylenon, Muriel, the Honouree Secretary of the Development Association, has a long-term 'understanding' with its Chair, Phonsie Doherty. She is a gentle personality, but misses nothing and can see a midge on a mare's arse in Tyrone.

We also discover, Vera McConachie, 61, Muriel's younger and more forthright spinster sister who runs the 10-line manual Telephone Exchange and is known as the Ears of Ballylenon. Every call goes through her switchboard, its content noted, discussed and any necessary action taken. She also writes the Horoscope anonymously for the Donegal Vindicator.

The McConkey's closest confidant is Phonsie [Alphonsus] Doherty. 58. Phonsie is a widower, proprietor of the Swilly Arms Hotel and of Doherty's Estate Agency and Funeral Furnishers and Chair of the Development Association. Up to the present is politically 'in' and therefore in the way of knowing what grants and subsidies are available for all manner of projects. His relationship with Muriel McConachie is proprietorial rather than romantic.

If there is a thorn in the side of this trio it is, Vivienne Hawthorne, 30, the former Miss Boal. Bright, breezy, busy primary schoolteacher. Organist and choir-mistress of the Presbyterian congregation. Though seemingly rationalist, Vivienne is secretly much influenced by horoscopes. She is supporter of cultural causes like the music festival and architectural conservation. And though apparently straightforward, she achieves certain aims by devious means.

Ballylenon by Christopher Fitz-Simon

Muriel McConkey -Margaret D'Arcy
Vera McConkey -Stella McCusker
Phonsie Doherty -Gerard Murphy
Mrs Vivienne Hawthorne -Aine McCartney
Rev. Samuel Hawthorne -Dermot Crowley
Kevin 'Stumpy' Bonnar - Gerard McSorley
Guard Gallagher -Frankie McCafferty
Daniel O'Searcaigh - James Greene
Monsignor McFadden - Niall Cusack
Aubrey Frawley - Chris McHallem
Polly Acton - Joanna Munro
Eamonn Doyle - Patrick Fitzsymons
Mr Boylan - Derek Bailey

Directed By Eoin O'Callaghan.

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