‘Should we get Dougal in the bath?’: Ardal O’Hanlon and Pauline McLynn look back at Father Ted


As lovable idiot priest Father Dougal McGuire and tea-fixated housekeeper Mrs Doyle, Ardal O’Hanlon and Pauline McLynn were cemented in comedy history with their roles in 90s sitcom Father Ted. Ardal has since appeared in shows such as My Hero, Death in Paradise and Derry Girls, while McLynn has had roles in Shameless and EastEnders. The pair reunite for comedy series Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything on Sky Comedy.


The scene in this photograph was such a surreal moment, but no fuss was made of it. It doesn’t exist in the episode for any significant reason. It’s just part of the absolutely bonkers way Mrs Doyle and Dougal lived their lives – her giving him a bath, like you would wash a dog. Perfectly straightforward.

A whole lot of things were daft in Father Ted. We once filmed a scene where Dougal and Ted got covered in “sewage”. The water was freezing and they were told to do it again and again. Afterwards I said something to Ardal and Dermot [Morgan, who played Father Ted] and I could tell they couldn’t even hear me, it was like they were having a gentle stroke because of all the cold they’d endured. These days there would probably be some kind of protocol to warm them up – a portable sauna or something – but instead they were bundled into a car to bring life back into their bodies.

It made perfect sense to have him in the bath, as Dougal was grown from a baby into a priest

The brilliant thing about Ardal is that he was, and still is, so friendly. Whatever is required, he’ll do it. He is endlessly positive and generous. It’s just wonderful. He is also incredibly perceptive. I almost don’t want to say this in case I get killed by one of the writers, but Ardal would often make suggestions to them – like Mrs Doyle’s line “ride me sideways”, one of the most quoted jokes from Father Ted. I am sure he was the one who suggested, “Should we get Dougal in the bath?” It made perfect sense, as Dougal was grown from a baby into a priest.

Ardal was a trailblazer in Ireland in terms of the new generation of standup comedians. My first encounter with him was a radio play, a pilot for a series that was never made. The next time was when they were casting Father Ted, and straight away I thought he was steady and brilliant – the type of person who, when they do speak, is always worth listening to.

It’s been decades since anyone’s put us into a series together, but over the years he’s kindly asked me round to his house to tell tales, drink wine and get fed – everything from a traditional roast to some very fabulous curry. I am rubbish at hosting, so I rarely have people over. I hate housekeeping, which comes as a shocker to everyone.

Ardal, however, is a congenial and generous host, and he carries that with him on set. You always look forward to working with him because you know they will be happy days where you get good things done. That doesn’t happen all the time. To work with him twice, I feel very spoiled.


I love this bath scene because Pauline and I didn’t normally have much to do together. Dougal never asked a direct question to Mrs Doyle, and she never made any comments to Dougal except about a cup of tea. So this is a rare chance for our characters to interact.

The art department was very skilled in capturing the atmosphere of a gloomy parochial house. Those old, damp, practically derelict houses, the furnishings, the wallpaper, were very familiar. Not only does this photo bring me back to Father Ted, but it brings me back to my childhood as well.

There was no water in the bath, but I was covered in bubbles. It was great fun – and I love how we are absolutely playing it for real, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world for a young priest to be given a bath by his housekeeper. There was always a hint of mischief in whatever we were shooting and the creators [Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews] would often attempt to make you as uncomfortable as possible. The bath scene would have been a relatively mild day.

Pauline was always trying to add lines for her character – she was wily in that theatrical actor kind of way

Pauline and I had done a comedy show together on Irish radio before Ted, and I had seen her in lots of plays in Dublin, so it came as no surprise when she was cast. My first impression was that she was very loud, which she’ll cheerfully admit. Her sentences never end. You have to bide your time and dive in when she takes a breath. You learn how to navigate her conversations. But she’s really good humoured – one of those people who brings energy to a room. She also has no filter. She says whatever comes into her head. She won’t thank me for this, but she was always trying to add lines for her character – she was wily in that theatrical actor kind of way.

Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t quote one of Pauline’s lines or doesn’t offer me a cup of tea in her special way. While the end of Father Ted was overshadowed by Dermot passing away – pretty much the night after the wrap party, which put a damper on things – I never imagined I’d be part of something so ingrained in people’s memories. I have a lot of brilliant recollections of shooting the show: most of it was filmed in London, where I was staying at the time, but Dermot, Pauline and Frank [Kelly, who played Father Jack Hackett] were living in Ireland, so it felt as if they were all over on a jolly. It was a giddy time and I look back on it as a great period of my life.

Related: Ros Atkins looks back: ‘I do wonder how it would look – a BBC journalist at a rave’

What’s amazing is that 25 years on, Pauline and I are acting together again. She’s underestimated as a performer, and when we work together we know what we want from the scene simply by looking at each other. We make for a convincing married couple too – playing the parents of Sheridan Smith’s character, Rosie Molloy. We already had that familiarity and that shorthand, plus we always slagged each other, teased and bickered back in the day, so I think that all rings true in a marriage.

I know Pauline’s husband quite well, and we have had plenty of dinners at our house. Sadly we’ve spent time with each other at funerals too – as well as Dermot, we lost Frank. But in recent years we have been in touch more often, and even more so since the pandemic.

Pauline has got the same life about her and the same relentless energy, but I think she’s mellowed a bit. While we weren’t bosom buddies back then – we were part of a rolling ball of a friendship group – now there’s a trust between us and a lot of understanding. We’ve got nothing to prove to anybody, and I feel lucky I’ve had the chance to get to know her better than I did so many years ago.