The Irish R.M.

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The Irish R.M.
Created by E. Somerville
M. Ross
Starring Peter Bowles
Doran Godwin
Bryan Murray
Anna Manahan
Country of origin United Kingdom / Ireland
No. of episodes 18 (list of episodes)
Running time 50 minutes
Original network Channel Four, RTÉ One
Original release 6 January 1983 – 7 July 1985

The Irish R.M. refers to a series of books by the Anglo-Irish novelists Somerville and Ross, and the television comedy-drama series based on them. They are set in the turn-of-the-twentieth-century west of Ireland.

Original books[edit]

The television series is based on stories drawn from:

  • Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1899)
  • Further Experiences of an Irish R.M. (Longmans Green & Co., London, 1908)
  • In Mr Knox's Country (Longmans Green & Co., London, 1915)

All three books are out of copyright and can be found on the Internet Archive. The various stories concern the life of an Irish ex-British Army officer resident magistrate (R.M.) recently appointed to his position in Ireland, which at that stage was still wholly a part of the United Kingdom, and before the creation of the present-day Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Television adaptation[edit]

A television series based on the books was made in the 1980s, and was filmed in Ireland at locations in Kildare and Wicklow with additional locations in the west of Ireland in a co-production between Ulster Television and Radio Telefís Éireann. It was broadcast on Channel 4 and S4C in the United Kingdom, and RTÉ One in the Republic of Ireland. Like the books, the television series is a number of short stories around a few central characters.

Morristown Lattin, the house used as Aussolas Castle, the residence of Beryl Reid's incarnation of the erstwhile Mrs Knox (located at Newhall, Naas in County Kildare), was badly damaged by fire following completion of filming for the series, it has since been repaired.[citation needed]

Johnstown Kennedy – the house used as Major Yeates' residence, Shreelane House – was situated near Rathcoole, County Dublin. The extensive outbuildings were transformed into shops and pubs for some of the village scenes. The house was demolished soon after the third series was completed and a golf course now stands on the site. The design of the course preserved the large number of mature trees, and in addition the house's date stone and a number of other items are on display.[1]

Furness House, near Naas, was used as Castle Knox, the home of Sir Valentine and Lady Knox and their daughter Sally.[2]

For the second and third series, many of the Skebawn village scenes were filmed in Robertstown.

In the television adaptation, Major Yeates (Peter Bowles) is portrayed as an Englishman, and much of the humour of the first series derives from his difficulty in adjusting to the more relaxed class boundaries and slower pace of life of rural Ireland. The timeline of the television series begins in 1897, when the Major departs for Ireland, and ends shortly after the death of Edward VII.

The R.M. has to deal with all sorts of everyday events with colourful characters, often being outfoxed by the machinations of his Anglo-Irish friend, Flurry Knox (Bryan Murray). Anna Manahan played the redoubtable housekeeper, Mrs Cadogan.

Political references are, however, not completely absent; where they occur, they are invariably introduced in a subtle manner by guest characters. Notable among these are several visiting officials from Dublin Castle who regard the Major's dispensation of justice as unduly lenient, and a Catholic canon with strong Irish nationalist sympathies who exploits the naiveté of the Major for his own purposes. In every case, the comfortable, if somewhat adversarial, co-existence of the Major and the local population is at risk. One element of the series' humour involves the efforts of Flurry and the Major to hasten the departure of these troublesome visitors.

One of the show's key strengths lies in its ability to convey the extent to which the lives of the Anglo-Irish gentry and the simple, if rather stilted local characters, often became inadvertently intertwined to produce the memorable comic effects that are so unique to the Irish psyche.

In one scene, the major's English wife, Philippa (Doran Godwin) is dancing with Flurry's groom, Slipper (Niall Toibin), at a servants' ball. Slipper ventures to say that 'The English and the Irish understand each other like the fox and the hound,' to which the lady replies in good humour, 'But which is which?' The answer is, 'Ah well, if we knew that, we'd know everything!’

List of episodes[edit]

Series 1[edit]

1. Great Uncle McCarthy

At a regimental ball in 1897, Major Sinclair Yeates reveals his plan to resign his commission to become a resident magistrate.

2. Trinket's Colt

Eccentric Mrs Knox wrongly believes that Yeates stole her prize mare's colt.

3. A Misdeal

Yeates and Philippa visit a horse fair in search of a suitable mount for a forthcoming hunt.

4. The Boat's Share

Yeates and his cousin Basil fear that their careers are ruined when they are caught in a police raid at the Brickleys'.

5. Occasional Licences

A local publican neatly sidesteps Yeates' objections to beer sales at the annual St Peter and St Paul's Day Games.

6. O Love! O Fire!

An exhausting night of dancing and dousing fires ends with a carefully planned surprise by Sally and Flurry.

Series 2[edit]

1. A Horse! A Horse!

Flurry returns to his old, deceitful ways after returning from a Paris honeymoon with his new bride Sally, and does his utmost to sell a horse to General Porteous. But as usual, things do not quite go smoothly. After convincing Major Yeates to join him on a hunting expedition, the Major suffers an unlucky accident, thanks in no small part to Flurry's treachery. Of course, this is all part of Flurry's plan.

2. The Dispensary Doctor

The tension between the Foleys and the Callaghans continues to escalate. On the eve of the annual race competition, the Callaghans accuse the Foleys of being salmon poachers, bringing in the police to investigate. Flurry's unsavoury friend Dr. Hickey convinces Major Yeates to break into the butcher shop. The two are caught in the act.

3. Holy Island

When a transport ship filled to the rafters with rum is shipwrecked on the beaches near Skebawn, the local citizenry take it as a sign to imbibe the precious cargo, and a drunken party commences. In the ensuing police investigation, it is nearly impossible to locate any evidence that the rum ever existed.

4. Oweneen the Sprat

Christmas proves a tense time for the Yeateses when Philippa collides with Oweneen while driving the carriage. When it's discovered that one of the people injured in the carriage accident is an evil mountain man known as Oweneen the Sprat, the family is overcome with fear. They now need to keep one eye on the injured and one eye on the hills.

5. A Royal Command

The Maharajah and his Indian polo team, visiting Skebawn, accept a "friendly" challenge from Flurry. To ensure he comes out ahead, Flurry sells a seemingly docile filly to John Cullinane. During the matchup, the filly goes crazy, destroys a goal post, and scatters the crowd as it makes a break for freedom, with the audience in tow.

6. The Aussolas Martin Cat

Flurry and Sally are threatened with being put out on the street after they discover that the landlord of Aussolas Castle wants to rent it out. Their time to deal with eviction is lessened by a telegram detailing the impending arrival of the new tenant. It appears Mrs. Knox is serious in her intent.

Series 3[edit]

1. The Muse in Skebawn

Simon Smiley introduces moving pictures; Yeates unknowingly allows a group to perform a banned play.

2. Major Apollo Riggs

Babs' cousin Andrew turns Yeates' house inside out with structural attempts to improve the chimneys and well.

3. The Friend of her Youth

Everyone, including a dog which attacks him, takes an immediate dislike to Babs' scornful friend, Julian.

4. In the Curranhilty Country

Yeates' day of hunting goes badly, and his experiences with a new automobile convince him to abandon it.

5. Lisheen Races

A stern official from Dublin Castle observes Yeates' court conduct; Yeates finds Sally's horse hidden in the loft.

6. The Devil you Know

An old friend's offer of a resident magistrate position in a more civilised location tempts Yeates.


All three series of The Irish R.M. were issued on DVD in the UK, distributed by Acorn Media UK. The DVD also includes an Ulster TV documentary about the filming of the first series. There are two slideshows, one of profiles of the lead actors and the other sample recipes from Mrs Cadogan's Cookbook (ISBN 0-09-158191-5).


External links[edit]