We begin this year’s Reading Ireland Month on something of a sad note.
Frank Kelly, beloved Irish theatre and television actor, better known to millions around the world as Father Jack, has died.
Kelly was 77 and had suffered from various ailments, including Parkinson’s Disease, but had vowed to continue working. “I’ve been working as an actor for over 50 years and a shaky hand won’t stop me. I remain open to offers for work on stage and screen. I’m quite available and my mobile is always on,” he said.
A veteran of the Irish stage, Kelly’s best-known role was as the drunken, lecherous, violent, disgusting old priest Father Jack Hackett on Channel 4’s brilliant comedy Father Ted.
It took me two hours to be made up as Father Jack. I found it repulsive. If I was in costume, nobody would sit beside me. And I don’t blame them. I had vaseline coming out of my ears as discharge, incontinence marks on my trousers, prosthetic teeth which I took out to eat, and one blind eye with an opaque lens.
Before finding fame in Britain as Father Jack, Kelly had been a fixture on Irish TV, appearing in the children’s programme Wanderly Wagon and on the landmark satirical series Hall’s Pictorial Weekly.
Kelly’s voice was also familiar to radio listeners, and as well as performing, he also wrote and sang songs.