by Niall Anderson
In the writing career of Arthur Mathews, “Father Ted” is beginning to look like a detour. Mathews first surfaced in the mid-80s at “Hot Press” magazine in Dublin, where he began writing a seasonal pull-out called “The Border Fascist”. This was an elaborately loving, surreal and bitter account of life in provincial Ireland through the medium of mock newspaper stories and adverts: ‘Soap! – They use it in Dublin’; ‘Tranvestitism in Cavan has lost one of its most beloved characters with the sad death of Fintan McSweeney (73) …’
“The Border Fascist” was the first time Mathews worked with Graham Linehan, his writing partner on “Father Ted” and much else. It ran till 2004, by which time Mathews had published his first novel, “Well-Remembered Days”, an elaborately loving, surreal and bitter account of life in provincial Ireland through the medium of the memoirs of a retired public servant.
While, post-“Ted”, Linehan has stayed in London, where his comedy has acquired an advancingly placeless and metropolitan feel, Mathews now spends most of his time in Ireland and has squirreled back into the ideas that started him off in comedy. It may seem slighting therefore to point out that his 2009 RTÉ sitcom “Val Falvey, TD” (written with Paul Woodfull) is an elaborately loving, surreal and bitter account of life in provincial Ireland, but it also happens to be maybe Mathews’ best and most inventive treatment of the theme. All the more reason to lament that the show ran for just six episodes and died on its arse.