Frank Kelly

For other people named Frank Kelly, see Frank Kelly (disambiguation).
Frank Kelly
Born Francis O'Kelly
(1938-12-28)28 December 1938
Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland
Died 28 February 2016(2016-02-28) (aged 77)
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Actor
Years active 19682015
Notable work Father Ted (19951998)
Spouse(s) Bairbre Neldon (m. 1964; d. 2016)
Children 7
Parent(s) Charles E. Kelly (father)

Francis O'Kelly (28 December 1938 – 28 February 2016), better known by his stage name of Frank Kelly, was an Irish actor, singer and writer, whose career covered television, radio, theatre, music, screenwriting and film. He played Father Jack Hackett in the Channel Four sitcom Father Ted, and was also the son of the cartoonist Charles E. Kelly.

Early life and career

Kelly was born, in 1938, in Blackrock, south County Dublin, where he lived most of his life. His parents were Cathleen and Charles E. Kelly, cartoonist and founder of the satirical magazine Dublin Opinion. He studied law and tried journalism, before moving on to acting. He worked at Dublin’s Eblana Theatre with Cecil Sheridan and as a feed to Cruise. Other work included pantomime and reviews.[1]

Kelly's first film role was as an uncredited prison officer in The Italian Job (1969), escorting Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) out of prison 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.[2] 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 backwards 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 TV programme for those learning Irish Anois is Aris. At the end of the programme he spoke into a telephone, gradually introducing Irish phrases.[3] In 1988, he appeared in the Irish thriller film Taffin.

Father Ted

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 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 blank eye). People would not eat lunch with him during filming if he was in his Father Jack make-up.[4] 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.[5]

Later career

In 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.[6] 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.[7] He left the soap after just five months of filming because he missed his family in Ireland.[8]

A regular stage actor, Kelly toured extensively in the US and Canada. He provided voice-overs and in his TV 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.[9]

In September 2015, Kelly published an autobiography called The Next Gig. His reminiscences include those of acting colleagues including Pierce Brosnan and Michael Caine.[10]

Radio comedy

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, "Gobnait O'Lúnasa", the sketches typically started with the sound of him putting coins in an old freckle coin box, and when the phone rang and was answered, his words were, "Hello! Guess who? Is that you Nuala?" 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).

In 2000, he released an album, Comedy Countdown, which featured 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".

Music career

In 1982, Kelly released a single, "Christmas Countdown", a comedy song by Hugh Leonard, based on the Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas". It reached number eight in the Irish Singles Chart in 1982, and peaked at 26 in the UK Singles Chart in 1984.[11] The single was the opening track off Comedy Countdown.


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.[12] He had previously survived skin cancer.[2]

His death came exactly 18 years after the death of his Father Ted co-star Dermot Morgan.[13][14] 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."[15]

Kelly was survived by Bairbre, his wife of 51 years who was a drama teacher, and by their five daughters, two sons and 17 grandchildren.[1]



Title Year Role Notes
The Italian Job
Prison officer
Uncredited role
Grand Duke's Owls
Animated film; voice role
Hear My Song
Taxi Driver #2
War of the Buttons
Gorilla's Dad
Soft Sand, Blue Sea
Inspector Fitzgerald
Uncle Matt
Henry Doyle
The Boys from County Clare
The Chairman
Alternatively titled The Great Ceili War
Cowboys & Angels
Turning Green
Father O'Hara
Waiting For Dublin
Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie
Justice Cannon


Title Year Role Notes
Wanderly Wagon
Doctor Astro
(a recurring villain)
Pictorial Weekly
Various characters
Second City Firsts
Season 4, Episode 2 - "Swallows"
Teems of Times
Giggles Devoy
Season 1 - 4 episodes
The Irish R.M.
Bat Callaghan
Season 2, Episode 2 - "The Dispensary Doctor"
Remington Steele
Willard Skeggs
Season 3, Episode 6 - "Steele Your Heart Away"
Screen Two
Hotel priest
Season 10, Episode 5 - "O Mary This London"
Father Ted
Father Jack Hackett
3 seasons - 25 episodes
Miracle at Midnight
Television film
George Selwyn
Miniseries - 2 episodes
Maurice Nolan
Season 14 & Season 17 - 5 episodes
Various characters
Season 1
Father Pickle
Season 4, Episode 6 - "The Rock"
The Deal
John Smith
Television film
Malice Aforethought
Mr. Gunnell
Television film
The Running Mate
Pauly O'Sullivan
Miniseries - 4 episodes
Eddie Grant/Freddy Grant
Season 1 - 6 episodes
Val Falvey TD
Willy Nilly
Season 1, Episode 6 - "Dis Dat Dese Dose"
Dermot Macey
43 episodes

Short film



  1. 1 2 "Late Frank Kelly was loved by generations of Irish people". The Irish Times. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Beloved actor Frank Kelly has died aged 77". 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  3. Learning Irish with "Anois is Aris." 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.
  4. Linehan, Graham; Mathews, Arthur (1999). Father Ted: the complete scripts. London: Boxtree. p. 120. ISBN 0752218506.
  5. Deirdre Falvey (1 February 1997). "JACK of all trades". Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  6. "1 October Start For TG4's 'Running Mate'". IFTN. 25 Sep 2006.
  7. "'Emmerdale' reveals new Home Farm dynasty". Digital Spy. 30 September 2010.
  8. "Father Ted's Frank Kelly has quit Emmerdale". Unreality TV. 30 April 2011.
  9. Kirsty Blake (31 March 2014). "It's back to the parochial house for 'Ted' star Kelly". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  10. The Next Gig – Currach Press
  11. "Frank Kelly – Christmas Countdown". Chart Stats. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  12. "'Father Jack' actor Kelly dies aged 77". BBC News. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  13. "Father Jack Actor Frank Kelly Dies Aged 77". 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  14. "Acting great Frank Kelly dies aged 77 - RTÉ Ten". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  15. "Actor Frank Kelly's funeral underway in Dublin". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 March 2016.

External links

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