Thursday 20 October 2016

Acting great Frank dies at 77

Frank Kelly, right, in a Father Ted Chrismas special with cast members Pauline Flynn, Dermot Morgan, and Ardal O'Hanlon.
Frank Kelly, right, in a Father Ted Chrismas special with cast members Pauline Flynn, Dermot Morgan, and Ardal O'Hanlon.
Frank Kelly with his wife Bairbre

Tributes have been paid to much-loved actor Frank Kelly, who has died aged 77.

Best-known for playing drink-anything priest Fr Jack Hackett in cult sitcom Father Ted, he died yesterday after a battle with Parkinson's disease.

With a career spanning 60 years on stage and screen, he was considered a legend in the Irish acting world.

"If there was a Mount Rushmore for Irish entertainment, Frank's face would be up there," said fellow Father Ted star Ardal O'Hanlon.

The actor, who played dopey Fr Dougal, said Kelly was "multi-talented, a gentleman and a friend".


"I had dinner with him before Christmas and he was in his usual feisty form. He loved a good argument, though not in a Father Jack way," he said.

O'Hanlon said he grew up watching Kelly on RTE satirical programme Hall's Pictorial Weekly, which ran from 1971 to 1980.

"He was a very determined and hard-working character and he was rightly proud of his long and varied career," he said.

"Frank was an all-round talent, an institution in Irish entertainment, a very determined professional and he'll be greatly missed by all who knew him."

Comedian Joe Rooney, who appeared on Father Ted, described Kelly as a "hero who contributed so much to Irish comedy".

"We got on very well and I called over to his house recently to do an interview with him," he said.

"He was there with his wife and they were minding their granddaughter. I really feel for his wife, Bairbre, as they were together since college and Frank was just a lovely man.

"One of my first experiences of comedy was listening to him on the radio and laughing away in my kitchen.

"As he was getting older he found it harder to do live gigs, but he still wanted to get out there - he had a love for performing."

Kelly revealed last November that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

He died exactly 18 years after his Father Ted co-star, Dermot Morgan. Morgan's son Rob described the loss of Kelly as a "sad day".

"Thoughts and condolences to Frank Kelly's family and friends on their loss," he said. "I hope they find comfort in the joy he brought others."

A popular and respected theatre actor, Kelly worked on a recent production of Moll with former Glenroe star Mary McEvoy.

"I was extremely sad to hear the news, but I'm glad we spent time together working on Moll," she said.

"At that stage he was quite frail, but he was determined to keep going. He wasn't defeated in anyway. Frank was an astute man, he was philosophical and didn't suffer fools gladly."

A keen swimmer, McEvoy recalled how Kelly was often at the Forty Foot bathing spot.

"He was a regular fixture there," she said.

"Once I was humming and hawing about going for a swim and he said, 'Will you just go and get the f**k in'. I'm glad he did because now I swim all year round."

President Michael D Higgins issued a moving tribute, describing Kelly as a "friend".


"It is with great sadness that I have learnt of the death of Frank Kelly, the distinguished actor who made such a wide and valued contribution both on the stage and in film," he said.

"To his wife, Bairbre, and his family I send deepest sympathy, for theirs is the greatest loss of such a great and loving person. Sabina and I were privileged to have him as a friend."

Father Ted writer Graham Linehan described Kelly's death as "terribly sad news", while co-writer Arthur Mathews described him as a "comedy legend".

Actor Jack Reynor added: "We've lost another legend."

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