If you are a fan of Father Ted, imagine the voice of Father Paul Stone, thought by Ted to be the most boring priest in the world. Entirely monotone, Fr Paul Stone’s saving grace is that he says very little. “Yes,” “no,” “I suppose so,” are generally the full extent of his comments. Every year, he comes to Craggy Island for his holidays and sits in the parochial house exuding an impenetrable dullness. Ted dreads Fr Stone’s visits, the stony silences that fill the room, only to be broken by the dullest of voices.
Hearing the monotonous voice brought memories of forty years ago, memories of a Freshers’ Week talk given by an academic at the LSE. Welcoming the new undergraduates who were assembled in the lecture theatre, he spoke of how much more interesting university had become since he had been an undergraduate himself. “Even the lectures have improved,” he laughed. Assuming the flattest, dullest voice he could manage, he spoke about the first encounter of his cohort with a lecturer in economic history. “The wool trade in 1400,” he said in very dull tones. “This wasn’t the title of the course, nor was it the title of the lecture, this was the first line of the lecture – and it continued like that throughout the course.”
There were voices to which it would have been easy to listen, but sometimes they were loath to speak. One Scottish lecturer would meet students outside of his office on the first day of term and hand out duplicated sets of lecture notes to those who called. Having travelled in from his garden somewhere, still wearing his Wellington boots, he would say, conspiratorially, “if ye dinnae tell the bursar ah’m no lecturing, ah’ll no tell him ye are not attending the lectures.” it was a perfect mutual arrangement – we received complete sets of notes without sitting and listening for an hour each week and he hadn’t the bother of dealing with undergraduates, who were a bothersome lot.
It is hard to imagine what the Scottish lecturer would have thought about an assignment that demanded an essay, complete with references, being submitted as an audio-visual presentation. Perhaps his Caledonian tones would have made it something engaging, something interesting, something very different from the voice of Father Paul Stone.
Listening to the piece submitted, a narrated PowerPoint presentation, I smiled at what Fr Ted Crilly would have said if he had been made to listen. I shall never have a career in voiceovers.