Actor Frank Kelly, best known for his role as Father Jack in the hit comedy Father Ted, was remembered at his funeral as a loving family man as well as a comic legend.
Hundreds of mourners, including stars of the stage and screen, turned out to say a final goodbye to the veteran performer at a moving, sometimes funny, service at the Church of the Guardian Angels in Dublin’s Blackrock.
Irish President Michael D Higgins, Father Ted co-creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews as well as Ardal O’Hanlon, who played the hapless Fr Dougal in the TV series, were among those paying their respects.
In an emotional tribute, the actor’s son Emmet joked: “When he gets to heaven, when they chose to let Father Jack through the duty free at pearly gates, they’ll have no choice – It will be the first time anyone ever told St Peter to feck off.”
Kelly’s simple wooden coffin, adorned with bouquets of white lilies, was placed before the altar with a black and white photograph of the actor placed on top throughout the Mass.
Having spent 60 years in theatre and on television, Kelly, who died on Sunday aged 77, is mostly widely remembered for his feisty parody of the drunken priest Fr Jack.
Despite his role in lampooning the Catholic Church, chief celebrant Father Bill Fortune said the late actor was in fact a devoted church-goer with a deep faith.
He pointed to the exact seat Kelly took “Sunday after Sunday” and which was “probably contoured to his person”.
Paraphrasing Napoleon, the parish priest said his friend and parishioner had “2 o’clock in the morning courage”, not a hot-headed but a cool courage, as he battled Parkinson’s disease, cancer and a failing heart over the past decade.
A number of poignant gifts were brought to the altar including the Irish Times crossword, which he undertook every day, and a picture of his beloved 40 Foot, a swimming hole in Dublin Bay where he plunged into daily.
A picture of the family pet Lucky “who is already missing him” was placed next to them.
Along with 17 flowers, representing each of his grandchildren, a copy of his recently published autobiography The Next Gig was also brought to the altar.
“Dad’s next gig is in the best theatre hall,” remarked Emmet.
Father Fortune told the packed congregation Kelly was many things – a son, a sibling, a friend, a husband, a father, a grandfather, actor, writer and parishioner.
“But none of those could encapsulate or define him,” he added.
“He was much more than that.”
Such was his renown, “Father Jack” was trending on Twitter ahead of Donald Trump and Leonardo DiCaprio for a short while after his death, quipped Emmet.
“That’s pretty cool,” he added.
After the service, Father Ted co-writer Matthews described Kelly as a legend.
“He was naturally very funny, he was great, he had a great life,” he said.
“He packed a lot in. He’ll be missed, he was a legendary figure in Irish comedy.”
He is survived by his wife Bairbre, children Aideen, Fiona, Jayne, Ruth, Emmet, Stephen and Rachel, and his grandchildren.