Frank Kelly, the great Irish actor, had a remarkable career that spanned over 50 years, but will forever be remembered for one famous role – Father Jack in Father Ted. One of Ireland’s great satirists, he was a driving force behind RTE’s Hall’s Pictorial Weekly and The Glen Abbey Show, the latter spawning one of his other famous creations – Gobnait O’Lunacy.
Frank was also a prolific voice-over artist a regular star in Irish stage shows, and an author who, when VIP sat down with him at the end of last year, had just published his autobiography, The Next Gig. Frank was surrounded by his extended family for that photoshoot, which featured six of his seven children, and also 11 of his 17 grand children! Pride of place, however, went to his beloved wife wife of over 30 years, Bairbre.
On that day, Frank was in outstanding form, and though suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, declared that “My health is very good. It’s a constant job, though – you have to take care of yourself and do what they (the doctors) say.” He spoke about Bairbre – “she’s been a huge support for me” – and his desire to keep on working – “There is only the next gig. You don’t have a pension like a civil servant, so you keep kickin’!”
Most of all, he talked about his most famous character and how, despite all his other achievements, it is the one thing that people remember him for. “I am very proud of them all,” he said about all his other roles, and while he appreciated the fame that Father Jack had brought him, he joked that “I like credit for the other things I’ve done too.”
We couldn’t leave Frank that day without getting him to utter his most famous line and, almost without having to ask him, he let out the loudest “DRINK!” you could imagine!! “I never do it, you know”, he confided in us, “but I made an exception for VIP!”
An absolute gentleman, who loved his family, and was loved by everyone who met him, Frank will be sorely missed.