Actor Frank Kelly, best known for his role in Channel 4’s comedy Father Ted, has died aged 77.
The Irish performer, who also appeared for five months in ITV Yorkshire saga Emmerdale, announced in October last year he had Parkinson’s disease however vowed to continue working. Kelly, whose stage, film and television career spanned sixty years, had in recent years suffered a string of health issues including heart problems and skin and bowel cancer.
Appearances across his career included parts in Michael Caine movie The Italian Job, drama Screen Two: O Mary This London, BBC comedy Revolver and the big screen version of sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys. In his native Ireland he made regular appearances on RTÉ programming including a long running association with children’s show Wanderly Wagon between 1968 and 1982 as well as RTÉ Film and Television Awards and period drama Teems of Times.
He was also a stalwart of radio broadcasting appearing over twenty years on The Glen Abbey Show for RTÉ Radio 1 while his comedy recording of The Twelve Days of Christmas, entitled Christmas Countdown, peaked at Number 8 in the Irish Pop charts of 1982 and made the Top 30 in the UK two years later – with an appearance on chart show Top of the Pops on BBC One. The track featured Frank performing a monologue as Gobnait O’Lúnasa writing to friend Nuala who keeps sending ‘festive gifts’ which ends in farce as the turtle doves fail to warm to the partridge and the twelve maidens dancing beat the living daylights out of the eight maids-a-milking and so on…
However his best remembered character for many in the UK will be that of ‘brick loving’ alcoholic Father Jack Hackett in Channel 4’s sitcom Father Ted. Running for three series between 1995 and 1998 the show followed the far from saintly lives of three dubious priests sharing a house on Craggy Island with a deranged housekeeper.
While Kelly’s role was of little dialogue, the character was often central to the storyline, especially his quest to escape the house, drink booze and find women. Father Jack, while not quite catchphrases, did become notorious for shouting words such as “Feck”, “Feck Off” “drink” and “girls”. Father Ted ran for twenty five episodes which continue to be screened on More4 in the UK regularly. It co-starred the late Dermot Morgan in the lead role of Father Ted, Ardal O’Hanlon as Father Dougal McGuire and Pauline McLynn as Mrs Doyle.
“Very sad news. We had lunch together at Christmas when he was in his usual feisty form, 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.” – Ardal O’Hanlon
In 2010 Frank was signed up to appear as a regular in the Leeds based soap opera Emmerdale. He joined the ITV Yorkshire production as Dermot Macey, part of the new family for the village’s manor house Home Farm. Kelly was cast alongside Jason Merrells who played his son Declan however missing his real family back in Ireland Kelly quit the saga after five months.
Frank’s last major production appearance was in Mrs. Brown’s Boys: D’Movie back in 2014 where he appeared as Justice Cannon. The actor is survived by his wife of 51 years Bairbre, his seven children and seventeen grandchildren.