Paul Merton in Europe: Episode 3

Thursday 28th January 9.00pm

Paul Merton continues his tour of Europe. Paul resumes his travels in Ireland with a stop to witness the unusual sport of road bowling. Near the lunar landscape of the Burren, he drops in on Father Ted’s house, before visiting a remarkable Brazilian enclave. In Dublin, Paul meets an enterprising pair who are selling Irish dirt to America, and an artist who lives in a 1930s house.

Paul Merton’s journeys through the western edge of Europe continue in County Wicklow. Paul meets a reclusive figure called Willy who has turned his bog land into an Amazon paradise for 20 rescued monkeys, as well as a number of geese, dogs, ostriches and emus.

Having fed this odd menagerie, Paul heads to County Cork to see the ancient Irish pastime of road bowling. Locals have gathered to watch two contestants attempt to fling a cannonball as far as possible down a country lane. The player who completes the distance in the fewest throws is the winner – and the spectators love nothing better than placing bets on the outcome.

Next, Paul travels to the lunar landscape of the Burren in western Ireland. These strange rock formations once lay on the ocean floor and represent 300 million years of compacted fish bone. Nearby, Paul visits the farmhouse used in ‘Father Ted’. The property belongs to Patrick, whose father appeared as an extra in the sitcom. But it seems that some of the locals were not amused by the show. “When they saw what they were involved with, they were totally disgusted,” Patrick says. “It was making fun of the Catholic Church.”

A young Brazilian lad living with Patrick’s family reveals that there is a town nearby with a large South American community. “They call it Little Brazil,” says Patrick’s wife. Intrigued, Paul heads straight to the very Irish-looking town of Gort. It takes only a few moments to realise that most of the locals look distinctly Brazilian – and there is even a Brazilian shop. “Even for elaborate hoaxes, to build a store and fill it full of Brazilian food would be going a bit too far,” says Paul.

It transpires that a large number of Brazilian butchers were brought to Gort over ten years ago to staff a meat factory. The plant has now closed down and the Brazilians have had to find other work. The locals seem content to welcome the newcomers, pointing out that the Irish themselves have a proud history of emigrating to find work.

Paul’s next stop is Dublin, which was until recently Europe’s fastest-growing capital. The economy is facing tough times, but at least one pair of enterprising Irishmen have hit upon a profitable business. Patrick and Tim export tonnes of Irish peat to nostalgic Irish-Americans. “There’s 36 million Irish-Americans out there,” says Patrick. “Five per cent of that market – that’s what we’re looking for.”

Elsewhere in Dublin, an eccentric American has made the journey the other way. Artist David McDermott moved from New York 15 years ago and has adopted a 1930s lifestyle. David says he was inspired by the locals. “Even though the people might appear to be contemporary, they’re really old-fashioned,” he says. Paul is charmed and bewildered by David’s extraordinary home, which includes a large taxidermy collection. “I go for road kill,” David explains.

Finally, Paul spends an afternoon at a military reenactment at Fort Duncannon. A range of historic armies are on display, but Paul is especially interested by the Nazi encampment. While Paul is a little worried by all the Third Reich paraphernalia, it seems that the locals are more tolerant. “I’d probably get more adverse reaction if I had been wearing a British uniform,” says Joe, a member of the ‘Nazi’ team. The day concludes with a pitched battle and an appearance by Winston Churchill himself – complete with an Irish accent.

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