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Frank Kelly

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Frank Kelly
Francis Kelly

(1938-12-28)28 December 1938
Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland
Died28 February 2016(2016-02-28) (aged 77)
Dublin, Ireland
Years active1968–2015
Notable workFather Ted (1995–1998)

Evelyn (2002)

Yu Ming is Ainm Dom (2003)
Bairbre Meldon
(m. 1964)
ParentCharles E. Kelly (father)

Francis Kelly (28 December 1938 – 28 February 2016) was an Irish actor, singer and writer, whose career covered television, radio, theatre, music, screenwriting and film. He is best remembered for playing Father Jack Hackett in the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted.

Early life and career[edit]

Kelly was born, in 1938, in Blackrock, County Dublin, which remained his home for much of his life. His father was Charles E. Kelly, a cartoonist who established the magazine Dublin Opinion. He was educated at Blackrock College and studied law at University College Dublin, before taking up journalism, working for some years as a subeditor at a number of Irish newspapers,[1][2] prior to becoming an actor. He worked at Dublin's Eblana Theatre with Cecil Sheridan and Jack Cruise. Other work included pantomime and comedy sketches.[3]

Kelly's first film role, which was uncredited, was as a prison officer in The Italian Job (1969), escorting Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) out of prison[2] in the film's opening sequence.

He starred in the popular RTÉ children's programme Wanderly Wagon alongside Eugene Lambert and Nora O'Mahoney from 1968 to 1982, playing a number of different characters and writing many of the scripts.[4] It was Kelly's work on Hall's Pictorial Weekly (1970–1982) that established him as one of Ireland's most recognisable faces. He memorably portrayed councillor Parnell Mooney, a send-up of a backward local authority figure in rural Ireland. In 1974, Kelly won a Jacob's Award for his work on the series.

In the early 1980s, he was featured in the RTÉ television programme for those learning Irish Anois is Aris. At the end of the programme he spoke into a telephone, gradually introducing Irish phrases.[5] In 1988, he appeared in the Irish thriller film Taffin.

Father Ted[edit]

Kelly was best known outside Ireland for playing Father Jack Hackett in the comedy series Father Ted, which aired in the United Kingdom from April 1995 to May 1998. Father Jack is an old, alcoholic and offensively rambunctious priest who usually shouts only "feck!", "arse!", "drink!" and "girls!" and the occasional scream of "what!" and "women's knickers".

For his role in Father Ted, he wore contact lenses (to show Father Jack's cataract). People would not eat lunch with him during filming if he was in his Father Jack make-up[6] because the false flaky skin he was wearing would fall off into the food.

Interviewing Kelly in 1997 for The Irish Times, Deirdre Falvey said of him: "In person he could not be further from Father Jack. Urbane, articulate, thoughtful, fit (he swims and hikes), charming company, full of stories, and quite serious, though his conversation is punctuated by the occasional burst of laughter—he is reputably a great slagger with colleagues, and is very well liked." Kelly himself said:

I like humour—but I'm very suspicious of people who laugh all the time, because they never listen to what you're saying, they always—have another agenda and they generally have no sense of humour. The most untrustworthy body language I know is that of the person who laughs all the time. That terrifies me. People with no sense or a very limited sense of humour I am very wary of too, because it's not a sign of great intelligence to be without a sense of humour. If you've no sense of irony you haven't a great decision making capacity because you must see the possibilities of the downside of any decision. Without perspective you can't have any wisdom, so it frightens me when I meet captains of industry or whatever who have virtually no sense of humour. That's the kind of person I find dismaying.[7]

Later career[edit]

From 1999 to 2001, Kelly starred in Glenroe as Maurice and played Henry Doyle (father of Pierce Brosnan's Desmond Doyle) in Evelyn (2002). He appeared in the film Rat in 2000, as a priest called Father Pickle in the TV series Lexx (2001), and also in a short film, Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom, in 2003. That same year, he had a major role as John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, in the UK Television drama The Deal.

In 2007, he acted in the TG4 political drama Running Mate, about an election campaign.[8] He also appeared in the TG4 series Paddywhackery.

On 29 September 2010, it was announced that Kelly had joined ITV1 soap Emmerdale, playing the role of Dermot, Declan Macey's father.[9] Kelly left the soap after five months of filming because he missed his family in Ireland.[10]

A regular stage actor, Kelly toured extensively in the United States and Canada. He provided voice-overs and in his television advertising work, appeared with "Mr Tayto" in an advertising campaign for Tayto crisps.

In 2014, he appeared as judge Justice Cannon in Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie.[11]

In September 2015, Kelly published an autobiography called The Next Gig. His reminiscences include those of acting colleagues including Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine.[12]

Radio comedy[edit]

Many of his radio sketches originated from his weekday RTÉ radio show The Glen Abbey Show in the 1970s until the 1990s. Kelly played the part of a culchie (rural buffoon) called Gobnait O'Lúnasa. The sketches typically started with the sound of him putting coins in an old public phone's coin box, and when the call was answered, his words were, "Hello! Guess who? Is that you Nuala?"[citation needed] Kelly acted the part of an English BBC reporter interviewing rural inhabitants about local customs, such as watching bacon being sliced, or "ha-hooing" (shouting a rebel yell) competitions. The village was called Ballykilferret and described by the BBC man as being in "the Republic of Eer-ah" (a mispronunciation of Éire).

Music career[edit]

In 1982, Kelly released a single, "Christmas Countdown", a comedy monologue based on the Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and credited to the pseudonymic Gobnait O’Lúnasa. The monologue is presented as a series of comedic thank-you letters that become more and more deranged as Gobnait slowly goes insane as he receives each of the twelve items from the original song. It reached number eight in the Irish Singles Chart in 1982, and peaked at number 26 in the UK Singles Chart and number 15 in Australia in 1984.[13] He performed the single live on Top of the Pops on 5 January of that year.[14][15] The single was the opening track on the later album Comedy Countdown.

In 2000 he released Comedy Countdown, an album featuring some of his sketches taken from The Glen Abbey Show. Tracks included the "Ayatollah Ceili Band" (a pun on The Tulla Céilí Band), "Magnum Farce", "Incoming Call", "Festive Spirit", "Hymn of Praise", "Call of the Wild", "Festive Note" and "Siege Mentality".


Kelly died on 28 February 2016, after suffering a heart attack. He revealed he had Parkinson's disease in October 2015, and was recovering from bowel cancer.[16][1] He had previously survived skin cancer.[4]

His death came exactly 18 years after the death of his Father Ted co-star Dermot Morgan.[17][18] Speaking at Kelly's funeral, Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland, said, "He will forever 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."[19]

Kelly and Bairbre, his wife of 51 years who was a drama teacher, had five daughters and two sons.[3]



Title Year Role Notes
The Italian Job 1969 Prison officer Uncredited
Taffin 1988 Liam
Rock-a-Doodle 1991 Grand Duke's Owls Animated film; Voice
Hear My Song 1991 Taxi Driver #2
War of the Buttons 1994 Gorilla's Dad
Soft Sand, Blue Sea 1998 Inspector Fitzgerald
Rat 2000 Uncle Matt
Evelyn 2002 Henry Doyle
The Boys from County Clare 2003 The Chairman Alternatively titled The Great Ceili War
Cowboys & Angels 2003 Jerry
Turning Green 2005 Father O'Hara
Waiting For Dublin 2007 Thaddius
Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie 2014 Justice Cannon


Title Year Role Notes
Wanderly Wagon 1968 Doctor Astro (a recurring villain)
Hall's Pictorial Weekly 1970 Various characters
Second City Firsts 1975 Surveyor Season 4, Episode 2 - "Swallows"
Teems of Times 1978 Giggles Devoy Season 1 - 4 episodes
The Irish R.M. 1984 Bat Callaghan Season 2, Episode 2 - "The Dispensary Doctor"
Remington Steele 1984 Willard Skeggs Season 3, Episode 6 - "Steele Your Heart Away"
Screen Two 1994 Hotel priest Season 10, Episode 5 - "O Mary This London"
Father Ted 1995–1998 Father Jack Hackett 3 seasons - 25 episodes
Miracle at Midnight 1998 Stranger Television film
Aristocrats 1999 George Selwyn Miniseries - 2 episodes
Glenroe 1997–1999 Maurice Nolan Season 14 & Season 17 - 5 episodes
Revolver 2001 Various characters Season 1
Lexx 2001 Father Pickle Season 4, Episode 6 - "The Rock"
The Deal 2003 John Smith Television film
Malice Aforethought 2005 Mr. Gunnell Television film
The Running Mate 2007 Pauly O'Sullivan Miniseries - 4 episodes
Paddywhackery 2007 Eddie Grant/Freddy Grant Season 1 - 6 episodes
Val Falvey TD 2009 Willy Nilly Season 1, Episode 6 - "Dis Dat Dese Dose"
Emmerdale 2010–2011 Dermot Macey 43 episodes

Short film[edit]

Title Year Role Notes
35 Aside 1996 Nasty teacher
Fishing the Sloe-Black River 1996 The priest
Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom 2003 Paddy
The Unusual Inventions of Henry Cavendish 2005 Mr. Thomas Palmerston
A Day Out with Gwyn 2005 Gwyn Senior
Music Memories 2012 (Unnamed role)
Tea with the Dead 2014 Frank Finnegan (voice)
69 and Dead 2015 Eamon


  • 2015, The Next Gig, Dublin: Currach Press, ISBN 978-1782-18840-7


  1. ^ a b "Frank Kelly obituary". The Guardian. 28 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (28 February 2016). "Frank Kelly, Father Ted's foul-mouthed priest, dies aged 77". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Late Frank Kelly was loved by generations of Irish people". The Irish Times. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Beloved actor Frank Kelly has died aged 77". Thejournal.ie. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  5. ^ And Others, Devitt, S. M. (30 November 1982). "Learning Irish with "Anois is Arís." CLCS Occasional Paper No. 6, Winter 1982-3. A Report on the Background, Attitudes, Expectations, and Learning Experience of a Volunteer Group of Course Participants". Centre for Language and Communication Studies, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland. Retrieved 23 April 2017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Linehan, Graham; Mathews, Arthur (1999). Father Ted: the complete scripts. London: Boxtree. p. 120. ISBN 0752218506.
  7. ^ Deirdre Falvey (1 February 1997). "JACK of all trades". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  8. ^ "1 October Start For TG4's 'Running Mate'". IFTN. 25 September 2006.
  9. ^ "'Emmerdale' reveals new Home Farm dynasty". Digital Spy. 30 September 2010.
  10. ^ "Father Ted's Frank Kelly has quit Emmerdale". Unreality TV. 30 April 2011. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011.
  11. ^ Kirsty Blake (31 March 2014). "It's back to the parochial house for 'Ted' star Kelly". Independent.ie. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  12. ^ "The Next Gig". currach.ie. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 164. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "Frank Kelly – Christmas Countdown". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  15. ^ "Frank Kelly - Christmas Countdown". Simplyeighties.com. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  16. ^ "'Father Jack' actor Kelly dies aged 77". BBC News. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Father Jack Actor Frank Kelly Dies Aged 77". News.sky.com. 28 February 2016. Archived from the original on 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  18. ^ "Acting great Frank Kelly dies aged 77 - RTÉ Ten". Rte.ie. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Actor Frank Kelly's funeral underway in Dublin". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 March 2016.

External links[edit]