Thursday 29 January 2015

Ashes of stage legend Peter O'Toole kept safe by his friend in Aras

Shane Hickey London

Published 19/05/2014 | 02:30

Michael D Higgins and Peter O’Toole’s daughter Kate at a celebration of the actor’s life at the Old Vic, London
Actor Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic in London for the celebration of the life of Peter O'Toole. Picture: Simon Annand
Actor and writer Stephen Fry at the Old Vic in London for the celebration of the life of Peter O'Toole. Picture: Simon Annand
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the Old Vic in London for the celebration of the life of Peter O'Toole. Picture: Simon Annand
Peter O'Toole

THE ashes of the late actor Peter O'Toole are being held in Aras an Uachtarain until he can be buried in the west of Ireland following his death last December, a celebration for the screen legend heard.

Kate O'Toole, the daughter of the actor, told an audience of some of the most prominent figures of stage and screen that President Michael D Higgins, who was a close friend of Mr O'Toole, was minding them until she had time to bury him near her home in Galway overlooking the sea, as was his wish.

Some 350 people – among them the president and actors Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stephen Fry and Omar Sharif – yesterday gathered for an energetic celebration of the life of the actor who became a worldwide star for his performance in 'Lawrence of Arabia'.

Mr O'Toole died on December 14 aged 81.

In a eulogy for her father, Ms O'Toole, who lives in a hilltop home overlooking the Eyrephort peninsula, said it had been his wish to be buried "where his roots lie".

"I brought my father's ashes home to Ireland where they are currently in safe deposit with the president who is minding them for me at Aras an Uachtarain until I get a chance to return home and fulfil his wishes," she told the audience in the Old Vic theatre in London.

Mr Higgins spoke of his close friendship with the actor, which stretched back to 1969 when they were introduced by a mutual friend.

"We all know that time spent in Peter's company could never be described as monotonous. He transformed the most routine or mundane experience into exciting drama. This extended to his recreation and his love of sport. I recall on many occasions watching football matches on the television with Peter and he shouting loudly and encouragingly at the screen," he said.

"Over the years I received many messages, always pithy, on matters political or cultural, or both. Rugby was, of course, one of Peter's great passions. After I was elected President, he wrote to me to not only convey his good wishes but to impishly suggest that we could now both get good seats at the Six Nations test matches and to count him in for the Aviva."

Mr Higgins told of how he felt a "great sorrow" on learning of Mr O'Toole's death, describing him as a man of "of immense charm, grace, intelligence and eloquence who was assiduously professional about the vocation of acting".

Visitors to Aras an Uachtarain have recently seen the Oscar that was given to Mr O'Toole in 2003, which is being minded by the president for his family.

Kevin Spacey, who is the artistic director of the venue where yesterday's event was held, described a note which was left for him by Mr O'Toole after he went to see a production of 'Richard II' there, which read: 'Dear Kevin. Intolerable. Catch you next time, Peter.'

Irish Independent

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