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Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Morecambe and Wise IRA Sketch

Morecambe and Wise: The Lost Tapes

It’s hard to believe what I saw on television last night: two Morecambe and Wise shows from 1968, believed lost, recovered from a forgotten film canister found in a cinema in Sierra Leone, and broadcast now for the first time in over fifty years.

Morecambe and Wise IRA Sketch
Ronnie Carroll hands out the shillelaghs
The second of the two shows (first broadcast BBC2, Monday, 30th September, 1968) had a sketch in which the Northern Irish singer Ronnie Carroll played an IRA commander testing the Irish credentials of Eric, Ernie and writers Sid Green and Dick Hills by asking them to speak in an Irish accent and dance a jig. The running joke was that Eric Morecambe was unable to do these things (his accent was more Long John Silver) and therefore kept getting beaten with shillelaghs.*

The writing, the timing, the general silliness – it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen for some time, but can you imagine anyone on television today daring to make fun of the Irish Republican Army and speak in a mock Irish accent? Admittedly, the show was originally broadcast before the riots in 1969 and subsequent deployment of British troops, but even so, would it not today be greeted by howling accusations of bad taste, political incorrectness and even xenophobia, and taken off air?

My children have applied for Irish nationality. They can because my wife’s father was born in Bray near Dublin. They are fearful of losing their right to work and travel freely throughout Europe after Brexit. The likely outcome is that all the family except me will be Europeans, and that I will have to pay for a permit to set foot across the Channel.

Their applications required extensive supporting documentation – identity documents, witness statements, ancestral birth, marriage and death certificates, and large cheques – which took quite some time to put together. If all you had to do was to be able say “Top of the morning” in a pantomime Irish accent, dance a jig and set out for Tipperary with me shillelagh under me arm and a twinkle in me eye, I might have had an outside chance of getting in. ‘Tis a shame, to be sure, bejabers!

The Morecambe and Wise Show: The Lost Tapes is available on BBC iPlayer for the next month:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bxc158 is the episode described above with guest Ronnie Carroll.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bx04tl is another episode introduced by Michael Aspel who appears as guest on the show.
[addendum: they were repeated on Christmas Eve 2019 and available again for another month]


* Shillelagh: an Irish word for a stout wooden cudgel, immortalised in a song by Bing Crosby who had an Irish grandmother and released L.P.s full of sentimental songs with Irish themes, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnVPXf2_ZGY 

5 comments:

  1. "They are fearful of losing their right to work and travel freely throughout Europe after Brexit. The likely outcome is that all the family except me will be Europeans, and that I will have to pay for a permit to set foot across the Channel."

    You thick moronic Remain voting Tyke.
    I hope your family fuck off to the bog, Free UK don't need weak people like you and your offspring.

    Happy Brexit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't vote Remain. What the UK needs is people who can think, not small minded bigots who jump to unwarranted conclusions.

      Delete
  2. Still fuming after seeing this programme what a load of racist crap

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ok when this was first made maybe funny but BBC would not screen something like this in current climate about any other race of people -complete and utter racist rubbish

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what the post says. If you feel so strongly about it then make an official complaint to the BBC.

      Delete

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