seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Charlie Lawson, Northern Irish Actor

charles-lawsonQuintin Charles Devenish “Charlie” Lawson, actor from Northern Ireland best known for playing Jim McDonald in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street, is born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh on September 17, 1959.

Lawson is raised in a Protestant family and is educated at Campbell College, a grammar school in Belfast. He then trains as an actor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where a classmate and good friend of his is fellow Enniskillen native Adrian Dunbar, whom Lawson says is the first Catholic he has ever met.

Lawson appears in at least three films and in at least twenty television productions. He is probably best known for appearing as Jim McDonald in the ITV television soap opera Coronation Street. He first appears as Jim in 1989 and remains a regular character for eleven years, since which time his appearances have been few and far between.

Lawson’s other television work includes appearing as Seamus Duffryn in the 1982 Yorkshire Television thriller miniseries Harry’s Game (also known as Belfast Assassin), and as one of the main characters, Billy, in Mike Leigh‘s television film Four Days in July, both based on The Troubles in Northern Ireland. He plays Trigg in the 1989 television film The Firm and has also appeared in various other television series including Doctors, Bread, The Bill and Rosemary & Thyme.

In 2000, Lawson makes a programme for ITV Granada, Passion for Peace, which follows him back to Northern Ireland and reports on the creation of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre in Warrington. In 2005 he appears in the TV documentary Titanic: Birth of a Legend. In 2009 he appears alongside an eight-foot Frankfurter sausage in a German television commercial, advertising hot dogs. His overdubbed catchphrase in the commercial is Betrachten Sie die Größe meiner Wurst! (English: “Look at the size of my sausage!”).

In 2010, Lawson reveals that he is returning to Coronation Street for its fiftieth anniversary celebrations. He speculates that bosses may be planning to kill his character off, however, this never happens. He stays until April 2011. He then returns for a three-month stint on the soap between August and November 2014.

In 2015, Lawson makes a guest appearance in an episode of the Comedy Central sitcom Brotherhood as the father of the three main characters. He also appears as Doctor Black in the 2016 BBC Northern Ireland drama My Mother and Other Strangers.

Lawson returns to Coronation Street in September 2018 with his supposed long lost daughter from his relationship with Liz. On October 8, 2018, while portraying Inspector John Rebus in the play Long Shadows in Edinburgh, he suffers a minor stroke on stage, but recovers shortly afterwards.

Lawson lives in Belfast with his partner, Debbie Stanley, having previously lived with her in Chester, Cheshire, for a number of years.


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“The Riordans” Ends 15 Year Run

the-riordans-title-cardThe Riordans, a drama about life in a rural Irish village and the most successful serial in the history of Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), running from 1965 to 1979, comes to an end on May 11, 1979. It is the second Irish soap opera made by RTÉ (then called Telefís Éireann).

In 1964 the fledgling Telefís Éireann launches Tolka Row, a soap opera set in a working class part of Dublin. Its success is immediate, with its actors becoming household names. One year later, aware that Ireland is still a largely rural country, and of the immense popularity of rural-based radio shows on RTÉ Radio (then called Radio Éireann), Telefís Éireann decides to create a new rural soap opera, set on a family farm. Located in Dunboyne, The Flathouse, owned by the Connolly family, is the setting for this programme.

The show is called The Riordans after the name of the central family, who are two middle-aged parents, Tom Riordan and his wife Mary Riordan, together with their oldest son, Benjy and other siblings, including brother Michael and sister Jude, all of whom except Benjy have left farming for other careers and have more adventurous personal lives.

The Riordans is set in the fictional townland of Leestown in County Kilkenny and proves to be a revolutionary television programme, both in Ireland and internationally. Its most dramatic innovation is in the use of Outside Broadcast Units (OBUs) to film most of each episode on location in the countryside. This is a marked innovation. Previously soap operas had all been studio-based, with even supposed exterior filming all done with studio sets built in sound stages. This breaks the mould of broadcasting in the soap opera genre and inspires the creation of its British equivalent, Emmerdale Farm (now called Emmerdale) by Yorkshire Television in 1972. In 1975 The Riordans begins to be filmed and transmitted in colour, having been available in monochrome only up to then.

The show undergoes a number of changes in the mid-1970s, most notably moving from a half-hour to one-hour format, as well as a change in theme tune. The decision of actor Tom Hickey to leave the series causes some problems. His character, Benjy is not killed off but goes abroad “on the missions.” While the show has declined somewhat from its heyday, it still regularly battles with The Late Late Show to top the TAM ratings. The production team is surprised when one episode, which unusually departs from the 1970s and focuses on Tom Riordan as a young man in the 1930s at a family céilí, is critically acclaimed by the media and many older viewers, who view it as an accurate representation of life on an Irish farm in the 1930s and 1940s.

With its considerable popularity, large cast of respected actors and high production values, and its central location on the schedules of RTÉ 1, few expect the show to be axed, let alone so suddenly. There is considerable surprise, and a lot of criticism, when the new Director of Programming at RTÉ, Muiris Mac Conghail, decides that the show has run its course and so axes it in May 1979. Part of the justification is cost as it is one of RTÉ’s most expensive shows to produce.

(Pictured: The Riordans title card)