An Island Parish Review: Father Bed

AN ISLAND PARISH: Friday 28th January, BBC2, 9PM ALERT ME

It’s hard to think of a reason other than “it’ll be the real-life Father Tedâ€? for how this actually got commissioned in the first place. It’s hardly gripping stuff. It’s the gentle tale of Father John Paul McKinnon as he settles into his new parish on the remote Scottish island of Barra.

Those expecting fireworks are going to be disappointed. “Moving into a new parish, you have to take things very slowly and graduallyâ€? says McKinnon deflating any notions that I had about a radical new priest shaking some life into a rural community. If this programme took things any slower it’d be in a coma.

The Island of Barra does have some interesting features however. The massive beach doubles as the airport which making it the only one in the world with a tidal timetable, the population is 95% Catholic and over 50% of people attend church, making it practically unique in today’s godless world.

We get to meet Father Roddy’s housekeeper Sandy, who came to the islands to research her ancestry and never left. She’s busy cataloguing the island’s graveyard in the hope that it will assist future genealogist should they be interested. Mrs. Doyle she ain’t. Even better is “Scraggy Aggyâ€?, an old beachcomber who mutters to herself in Gaelic as she searches for scallops. Nothing thrilling here, but it’s hard not to raise a smile as she happily goes about her work.

It’s gentle early-evening viewing; about as inoffensive as a Victoria sponge but it’s hard to get very enthusiastic about a programme whose highlight is a church confirmation service watched by a visiting bishop. Next week, Father McKinnon gets some locals to repair the lights on the outside of the church. Be still my beating heart.

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