Give My Head Peace
|Give My Head Peace|
Title card (2016 special)
Nuala McKeever (S1–2)
|Country of origin||Northern Ireland|
|No. of series||11|
|No. of episodes||77 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30–40 minutes|
|Original network||BBC Northern Ireland|
31 August 1995 (Pilot)
Give My Head Peace is a satirical television comedy series on BBC Northern Ireland that pokes fun at political parties, paramilitary groups and the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland. The programme is written by Tim McGarry, Damon Quinn and Michael McDowell, also known as "The Hole in the Wall Gang", who also perform as the characters. Episodes are recorded in front of a live studio audience at the BBC Blackstaff Studio A in Belfast.
The concept originated on BBC Radio Ulster music programme Across The Line in the late 1980s, as a five-minute slot. The radio version used many of the characters and plot ideas used in the later TV series.
Pilot: Two Ceasefires and a Wedding
Its first television appearance was in a made-for-TV film called Two Ceasefires and a Wedding, shown on BBC Northern Ireland (31 August 1995), poking fun at the clichéd "love across the barricades" plot that features in many dramas about Northern Ireland. In this case the lovers were Emer, the daughter of a "prominent" Sinn Féin activist, and Billy, an RUC constable. Their wedding is opposed by their respective families, and ends in farce, although Billy and Emer were happily married.
A full series was then commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland. Some changes were made to the format prior to the series going ahead - with the character of Cal (Emer's brother) changing substantially, and the introduction of other recurring characters such as Big Mervyn and Red Hand Luke. A few years into the series, Nuala McKeever (Emer) left the series to pursue other interests, and a new love interest for Billy was introduced in the form of Emer's previously unseen sister, Dympna.
The series continued to run on BBC One NI until 2005, taking a hiatus as the Hole in the Wall Gang began work on a new series called Dry Your Eyes. Give My Head Peace usually screened in a prime-time Friday night slot, opting out from network BBC One. In mid-2004, a selection of episodes were shown across the UK on BBC Two in a late-night slot during weekends.
The 50th episode, entitled "Secondary Colours" aired on 27 December 2002.
The final Give My Head Peace episode was transmitted on BBC One Northern Ireland on 28 December 2007. This was supposed to be the last ever episode but during the final few seconds, a graphic stating "That's All Folks?" appeared, suggesting that the show could return in the future. According to Tim McGarry, the reason for the show's cancellation was due to a mis-sent email, received by a BBC executive in charge of the show's production. Allegedly, McGarry had hit reply rather than forward to the intended recipient.
Give My Head Peace returned for a one-off 40-minute long episode titled "The Farce Awakens" on 28 December 2016. It was filmed in Northern Ireland in October 2016. Television presenter Christine Lampard made a cameo appearance.
The Series returned with an eleventh series which began broadcasting on 19 January 2018.
In recent years, they have performed live shows at a selection of venues across Northern Ireland. The 2004 show was chiefly made up of scripts from the 2004–2005 series. In 2007 a new live show entitled Dry Your Eyes it's Give My Head Peace was held in Derry's Millennium Forum and the Grand Opera House to celebrate ten years of the show. This production showed material from GMHP and Dry Your Eyes and was very well received. The next live show in 2008 followed on from the final television episode, called Give My Head Peace: Back From The Grave, and also featured the Dry Your Eyes characters. In 2009, the gang went on their last tour called "Give My Head Peace: The Final Farewell Tour". However, the show returned on an annual basis with "Give My Head Peace: The Annual Review" touring Northern Ireland. The performance features the show's regulars, with the notable exceptions of Mervyn and Red Hand Luke, and also features a stand-up set from Tim McGarry who plays Da.
In 1999 a video & book was brought out. The only DVD released to date is of series 6, in November 2009, and is available at Give My Head Peace
The principal characters are:
- Da (Tim McGarry) - He is an Irish Catholic who represents a stereotypical Irish nationalist. He believes very much in Irish culture, despite the fact he admits he cannot speak a word of Irish. He is a Sinn Féin spokesman (later an assemblyman) and prides himself on his 'friendship' with Gerry Adams, trying to copy his outward appearance by wearing a beard and glasses. Da is shot and killed by Ma and Dympna in the last episode after it is revealed he prevented Liam Neeson from proposing to Dympna and was suspected by Ma of having an affair with a woman named Siobhan, who also tries to kill Da, but misses. Da lived in the Divis Tower on the Falls Road. It is suggested that he was in the IRA even after becoming a Sinn Féin member, considering that in the 2016 special "The Farce Awakens", Ma claims that he was wearing a balaclava when she met him, and that "when he says 'the boys', he means the Ra".
- Cal (Damon Quinn) - Although he is a grown up man, he still lives at home and often behaves like a child. He supports his father in the struggle against the British imperialism and does whatever Da tells him, no matter how daft. In the pilot "Two Ceasefires and a Wedding" he is portrayed as a sinister Irish Republican Army activist. In the series however, his character is dumbed down and he is the "thick one" of the family. At the end of the series he falls in love with Siobhan, a Protestant woman who had previously posed as a Republican to get closer to Da, who she was madly attracted to.
- Uncle Andy (Martin Reid) - An old-fashioned traditional loyalist whose twin loves are British Ulster and Elvis Presley. He is very argumentative, and determined to take offence at even the mildest suggestion that anyone in authority is trying to oppress him. He often devises elaborate political or moneymaking schemes with the aid of Big Mervyn, but owing to their shared lack of intelligence or foresight, these inevitably fail. Andy is shot and killed by Billy in the last episode after it is revealed that Andy and Mervyn had been taking out huge loans in Billy's name, eventually leaving him penniless.
- Billy (Michael McDowell) - Andy's nephew and an RUC (later PSNI) officer. He fell in love with and married Emer (and later Dympna). Throughout the series' life, there have been occasional hints that Andy may be more than just his uncle. In the 2003–2004 series, however, the writers knowing that they couldn't keep up that pretence for too much longer, the story was finally "wrapped up". In the final episode he murders both Uncle Andy and Mervyn, but receives a pardon from Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley. He then commits himself to clearing Dympna's name, despite being shacked up with two other women.
- Emer (Nuala McKeever) - She is like her mother not interested in politics, but unlike her mother more intelligent. Emer is more interested in fashion and in men. She is married to Billy but later leaves after the second series and runs off with a Spaniard.
- Ma (Olivia Nash) - Da's cynical, sharp-tongued wife. She is neither very intelligent nor very interested in politics and tries to be a warm-hearted Irish mother. However, as she has very little but contempt for her family and everyone else, she is convincing nobody. With her non-sectarian attitudes, she accepts her Protestant son in law Billy, and also has a mild crush on Uncle Andy.
- Dympna (Alexandra Ford) - replaced Emer as Billy's girlfriend when she ran off with a Spaniard. She is Ma and Da's other daughter, and is just as shallow as Emer, but is a great deal more pretentious. Often lectures Billy and Andy on intellectual matters, despite her limited knowledge. Dympna eventually married Billy in a chaotic ceremony in Rome at the end of the 2002 series. It is possible that she is in fact the daughter of Ma and Italian Cardinal Vincenzo. In the last episode she is jailed for 20 years for murdering Da.
- Big Mervyn (BJ Hogg) - A burly, leather-wearing loyalist, and Uncle Andy's best mate. Not the brightest. Mervyn is shot and killed by Billy in the last episode.
Other occasional characters are:
- Red Hand Luke (Dan Gordon) - born-again Christian and violent loyalist psychopath. Also a "Shugo" Duncan fan. He acts like a big child, and when he doesn't get his way, savagely beats everyone up, usually Andy and Mervyn, who often live in fear of the next time he (literally) bursts through Andy's front door. At the end of the series he converts to Islam in order to get arrested (as he longs to return to prison), after which he is placed in a specially constructed prison in the middle of Belfast Lough. Andy and Mervyn attempt to break Luke out, but he falls into the lough, protesting that he cannot swim. His fate is left ambiguous.
- Sammy (Gordon Fulton) - The landlord of the "Loyalist Kneebreakers", Andy and Mervyn's favourite haunt, a rowdy loyalist drinking den. Makes matchstick models of Stormont in his spare time.
- Pastor Begbie (Paddy Jenkins) - A recently introduced character. Like Red Hand Luke, a born-again Christian and feared loyalist, now a 'Presbyterian minister'. He and Luke met whilst they were in jail. He often gets Andy and Mervyn to perform painful and/or humiliating tasks for him, and threatens them with a visit from his 'henchmen' if they refuse. By the end of the series he is running an estate agency called Pastors New.
There have been other characters that have made one-off special appearances over the series to great effect. One such example was a Christmas special entitled "The King and I" where Elvis Presley (played by impersonator Martin Fox) saved Andy from a very dangerous situation.
A VHS was released containing the following three episodes; Hollywood On The Falls, Red Hand Luke, The Peace Dividend.
A number of DVD's have been released in the United Kingdom.
|Release name||No. of discs||Episodes Included|
|Series 6 Part 1||1||Three episodes - Intiminadation [sic], The Drugs Don’t Work, A Christmas Carol.|
|Series 6 Part 2||1||Three episodes - Day In The Life, Seven, The Shoes Of The Fisherman.|
|Series 6 Vol 1 & 2||2||Includes the six episodes mentioned in above releases.|
- The phrase "give my head peace" is a common idiom in Northern Ireland meaning "leave me alone" or "stop bothering me".
- The theme song of the series is "She Says" performed by The Saw Doctors. It was released as a single in Ireland in the late 1990s.
- "Laughter lab". BBC Online. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
- "Give My Head Peace goes south", BBC, 12 December 2002. Retrieved 13 March 2009.
- The King and I (Give My Head Peace, Episode 5). BBC Television, broadcast 26 December 2003. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Elvis Impersonator Martin Fox. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "Give My Head Peace". BBC Store. Retrieved 25 January 2017.