From the purity of Benjy to the evil of Nick and Richard

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Here and there in times past, I had little ‘affairs’ with the early soaps on television, most notably the Riordans because of its rural setting and its little moments of humour, some of them unintentional.

There were slivers of romance most notably between Benjy and Maggie with some of the scenes even upsetting members of the Tuam Town Commissioners who took umbrage at the decline in moral standards being showcased by the soap.

My memories of Benjy’s and Maggie’s famous little snog in the bushes seemed more awkward than arousing but there was always plenty of farming stuff like tractors and cattle being rounded up.

I was though a bit shocked at one point when Benjy decided to leave wife Maggie to become a lay missionary in Africa and even a young lad (well maybe youngish), I kind of deduced that this might have something to do with the late Tom Hickey wanting to broaden his artistic wanderings.

More innocent times maybe but some years back I’d occasionally tune into Eastenders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, or more recently Fair City on the local channel, indulge in small episodes of escapism.

The habit has become more and more infrequent, and even if by chance I happen to pass by the telly and Eastenders is on, tears are always flowing. Someone has either died, been murdered, has only a month to live, been kidnapped or abused . . . the list goes on and on.

I have vague memories in Eastenders of a live baby being swopped for a dead one in some bizarre storyline and that plot apparently attracted one of the biggest ever public anger reactions to a soap.

Seven or eight years back, even the one-time relatively harmless Corrie decided to row in with the heavy stuff in the form of a double murder while before that the more rural Emmerdale had a dog being held for ransom. You’d swear I’m making this up but I’m not!

A few years back too on Fair City, there was a siege which seemed to go on forever . . . or was it someone that was kidnapped or locked up. I was nearly tempted to ring the Gardaí and tip them off about the location of the injured party before a gentle pinch on the wrist reminded me that this wasn’t the real world.

Pictured: Maggie (the late Biddy White Lennon), and Benjy (the late Tom Hickey) in their innocent courting days of the 1970’s Riordans Irish rural soap opera.

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