Frank Kelly – Charlie Stepped In
It’s a measure of the strong feelings aroused by the man that this is the second novelty single posted about Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey, though this one is a little less reverential. Frank Kelly is best known to people under a certain age as Father Jack from ’90s sit-com Father Ted (and later turning up in rural soaps Glenroe and Emmerdale), but Kelly had a previous existence as one of the leading political satirists in Ireland. In 1970s TV series Hall’s Pictorial Weekly – fronted by Frank Hall and inspiring the recent RTE series Irish Pictorial Weekly – Kelly lampooned the more unhealthy aspects of Irish-style democracy, some of which still exist today. At the same time, The Glen Abbey Show on RTE radio featured Kelly playing characters such as ‘Gobnait O’Lunacy’ – as heard on the ‘B’-side of this single – and poking fun at Irish society. Father Ted actor Dermot Morgan himself had a background in radio satire and as such would have regarded Kelly as a forerunner. Kelly released an album titled Comedy Countdown which included sketches taken from the radio show, and his Christmas Countdown reworking of The Twelve Days of Christmas reached the charts in both Ireland and in the UK when issued in it’s own right in 1983, earning him a spot on Top of the Pops.
‘A’-side Charlie Stepped In essayed the recent upheavals within Fianna Fáil, starting with the infamous Arms Crisis of 1970 which saw ministers Charlie Haughey, Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland ousted by the leadership of Jack Lynch and Jim Gibbons over a plot to buy weapons for the IRA from public funds. Lynch’s retirement as party leader and Taoiseach in 1979 saw Haughey cap a remarkable comeback and overcome the internal opposition of Gibbons, George Colley and Dessie O’Malley to become leader. Frank Kelly made light of the factionalism that would plague the party for the duration of Haughey’s era and lead to the breakaway of O’Malley’s Progressive Democrats, all to the tune of the traditional Lanigan’s Ball, re-written by Kelly and Jim Doherty – “Hit me with your party whip” indeed.
All of which draws a suitably festive close to another year from this blog – may 2013 bring more happiness than 2012 to you all.
- Charlie Stepped In
- Christmas Countdown