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Father Jack actor Frank Kelly dies aged 77

The actor who played Father Jack in the Father Ted comedy series has died.

Frank Kelly, 77, was the feisty parody of a drunken priest whose role lampooning Catholicism helped make the series a massive hit at home and abroad.

He spent 60 years on screen and stage but revealed last November that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and died exactly 18 years after his Father Ted co-star Dermot Morgan.

Ardal O’Hanlon, the surviving actor who played the third of the trio of hapless clergymen, 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.”

As well as appearing on the Channel 4 sitcom, he had more recent roles in Emmerdale and Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie.

But he is best known for playing the irreverent and foul-mouthed priest Father Jack Hackett.

Father Ted writer Graham Linehan tweeted: “Terribly sad news. Thanks for everything.”

Morgan’s son Don tweeted about the coincidence of the date of his co-star’s death.

“Isn’t life just weird? Frank Kelly going on Dad’s anniversary.”

The programme about three priests and their housekeeper living on the fictional Craggy Island, somewhere off the west coast, attracted huge audiences in Ireland, Britain and further afield.

It aired over three series between 1995 and 1998 and won a string of Bafta awards.

Father Jack was an alcoholic and at times violent clergyman who made no attempt to mask his contempt for his fellow priests.

One of his defining quotes was “Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!”

Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan), Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O’Hanlon) and Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn) were shown to be generally tolerant of his drunken antics.

In a recent interview with the Irish Times about Father Ted, Kelly said: “One of my stand-out memories was filming the consecration of the Holy Stone of Clonrichert up on the Cliffs of Moher, which was shot in the middle of a blizzard, with very high winds.

“I was the one nearest the edge and I nearly went over. It’s the nearest I ever came to meeting my maker while working.”

The actor beat bowel cancer in 2011 and underwent procedures to remove two small skin cancers in 2014.

President Michael D Higgins said it was with great sadness that he learnt of the death of Kelly, “the distinguished actor who made such a wide and valued contribution both on the stage and in film”.

“He will for ever be remembered for his roles in the theatre and will be recalled with great affection and fondness for his roles on television, including in Wanderly Wagon, Glenroe and the much-loved Hall’s Pictorial Weekly.

“His partnership with Dermot Morgan and the team in the Father Ted series brought him wide international acclaim.

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“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.”


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