The Graceys’ rare breeds - and their owners - star in ‘Blandings’ series
TRADITIONAL farmers Kenny and Jennifer Gracey have found an extra role in life - as ‘extras’ in the hilarious six-part P.G. Wodehouse series ‘Blandings’, currently running on BBC Television.
The Graceys - who run Forthill Farm at Ballymore Road, Tandragee - are famed for their free range pork and beef, gleaned from traditional breeds. And it was thanks to those traditional breeds that they appeared on ‘Blandings’, along with stars like Jennifer Saunders, Timothy Spall, David Walliams and Mark Williams.
The series was filmed at Crom Castle in County Fermanagh, and with the series being set in bygone days, a plethora of traditional breed was required.
So, with the Graceys having an impeccable tradition of supplying ye olde breeds to various productions - not least the smash hit Sky Atlantic series ‘Game of Thrones’ - they were the obvious choice. And on a series of trips between Tandragee and Crom castle, they delivered rare breeds of goats, sheep, donkeys, longhorn bulls and shire horses.
“Perhaps the most bizarre request of the lot was a load of manure which the David Walliams character had to tumble into,” said Kenny. “Well, he didn’t actually perform that duty - it was bluffed in the series.”
So, while Kenny and Jennifer were on the set, the producers thought they might as well use them as extras, so they were dressed in the dress of the period, and were filmed leading animals hither and thither, and Kenny was in charge of the manure.
“We really enjoyed it,” said Kenny. “We rubbed shoulders with all the actors, and they were - as we say in Tandragee - dead-on, chatting away and enjoying the good old Ulster craic. It’s a comedy series, of course, and the actors were just as funny off camera as on camera.”
Viewers got a glimpse of both the Graceys in the two episodes that have been aired thus far (Sundays BBC1 6.30pm) and they’ll be seen intermittently in the four that are to come.
They also provided the animals for the hit series ‘Game of Thrones’, starring Sean Bean and Charles Dance, filmed so far in Northern Ireland locations like Tullymore Forest Park, Castleward and Clandeboye in Bangor. “We had to provide animals and carcasses and other items for that one,” said Kenny. “A new series starts in March and we’re looking forward to that.”
Kenny and Jennifer Gracey are continuing the Gracey tradition of farming at Forthill. Generations of the family have farmed there since the 1700’s and they are proud to preserve the old breeds of cattle and pigs like Belted Galloway and Longhorn Cattle, Gloucestershire Old Spots and British Saddleback.
“It is our belief that the older traditional breeds produce meat of superior quality,” said Kenny. “The difference between properly handled rare breed meat and modern hybrids is vast - it’s like comparing chipboard to Chippendale”.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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