Frank Kelly (28th December 1938 - 28th February 2016) was an Irish actor, singer and writer, whose career covered television, radio, theatre, music, screenwriting and film. He was best known for portraying Father Jack Hackett in the sitcom Father Ted.
Kelly's first film role was as an uncredited prison officer in The Italian Job (1969), escorting Charlie Croker 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 1968–1982, playing a number of different characters and writing many of the scripts. It was Kelly's work on Hall's Pictorial Weekly (1970–1982) which established him as one of Ireland's most recognisable faces. He memorably portrayed councillor Parnell Mooney, a send-up of a backwoods Local Authority figure in rural Ireland. Kelly won a Jacob's Award in 1974 for his work on the series.
In the early 1980s, he was featured in the RTÉ TV show for those learning Irish Anois is Aris, at the end of the programme, speaking into a telephone, gradually introducing Irish phrases. In 1988 he appeared in the Irish thriller film Taffin.
Kelly is best known outside Ireland for playing elderly priest Jack Hackett in the comedy series Father Ted, which aired originally in the United Kingdom in April 1995 and ran through until May 1998. For his role, he wore contact lens (to show Father Jack's blank eye) and people would not eat lunch with him during filming if he was in his Father Jack make-up.
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, a priest called Father Pickle in the TV series Lexx (2001), in series 4, episode 6 called The Rock and also in the 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. He also appears in the TG4 series Paddywhackery.
On September 29, 2010, it was announced that Kelly had joined ITV soap Emmerdale, playing the role of Dermot, Declan Macey's father. It was later announced that he was leaving the soap, after just five months of filming, because he missed his family in Ireland too much.
A regular Irish stage actor, Kelly toured extensively in the U.S. and Canada. He regularly provided voice-overs and TV advertising work, and appeared with Mr Tayto in a popular campaign for Tayto crisps.
In 2014 he played the courtroom judge in Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie.
Many of his popular radio sketches originated from "The Glen Abbey Show" on RTÉ Radio 1 in the 1970s-1990s. With Kelly playing the part of a culchie called "Gobnait O'Lúnasa", they 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 would act the part of an English BBC reporter interviewing rural inhabitants about local customs, such as watching bacon being sliced, or "ha-hooing" competitions. Typically the village was called Ballykilferret and described by the BBC man as being in "the Republic of Eer-ah" (a mispronunciation of Éire, designed to annoy purists). A compilation of his sketches was released on a CD in about 2000.
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 released a single, "Christmas Countdown", a comedy song based on the "12 Days of Christmas" carol (penned by Hugh Leonard), which reached #8 in the Irish Singles Chart in 1982 and peaked at 26 in the [UK Singles Chart in 1984. He also released an album, Comedy Countdown, which featured a sketch taken from his weekday RTÉ radio show, The Glen Abbey Show.
Kelly died on 28th February 2016 aged 77, he had previously revealed in October 2015 that he was suffering from Parkinson's Disease, and at the time of his death was also recovering from an operation to remove cancer in his bowel. Kelly was also recovering from the removal of two parts of skin cancer which had been found.
Kelly's death comes exactly 18 years after the death of fellow Father Ted star Dermot Morgan who died on 28th February 1998 of a sudden heart attack, one day after finishing filming on the final series.
Kelly's funeral was held on March 2nd 2016, Father Ted creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews were in attendance along with Ardal O'Hanlon and Donald and Robert Morgan, the sons of Dermot Morgan. Speaking at his funeral, Irish President Michael. D. Higgins 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.”