Monday 26 June 2017

Legendary wit departs to round of applause and a rendition of the 'Fawlty Towers' theme tune

David Kelly jnr (centre) carries the coffin of his father David Kelly from the church yesterday
David Kelly jnr (centre) carries the coffin of his father David Kelly from the church yesterday
16/02/12 Frank Kelly and wife Barbara pictured at the funeral of actor David Kelly at the Church of the Miraculous Medal, Clonskeagh this morning.. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins, Dublin.

Mark Hilliard

DAVID Kelly could fell you from 20 metres with just one lash of his biting wit, his funeral Mass was told yesterday. And nobody was safe.

The acclaimed actor -- who compared bar stools to Eastern European TV awards and shoddy hotels to chandelier graveyards -- is unlikely to ever leave the Irish stage, if only remaining in memory.

Even in death there was a sense yesterday that somehow his famous sense of humour could still strike at any moment.

It certainly did in the midst of his funeral Mass when just a small sample of his comic observations, delivered from the pulpit, put a unique spin on the final curtain call of a celebrated life.

He was, of course, best known for his roles as Grandpa Joe in the 2005 remake of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and as the maladroit builder O'Reilly in 'Fawlty Towers', but yesterday's ceremony preferred to remember the character of the man, rather than the characters of the actor.

Celebration

Hundreds gathered at the Church of the Miraculous Medal in Clonskeagh, Dublin, to share an occasion less in mourning than in celebration of an outstanding life that illuminated stage and screen.

His wife Laurie Morton, son David Jnr and daughter Miriam were joined by a host of well-known names from the acting world.

And as friends and family filed into the church they were met with books of condolences aptly flanked by a copy of Samuel Beckett plays, a sketchpad, a calligraphy pen and a lifetime achievement award for acting.

While these appeared to be what summarised Mr Kelly's 82-year life, the eulogy, given by Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan, revealed so much more.

"I feel I have known him all my life," he said. "I know it can't be so, but it seems there has always been a David Kelly."

He was, as Mr Colgan recalled, someone "who could kill at 20 metres with his biting wit -- and nobody was spared".

Of a rundown hotel, he had once observed: "It's the type of place where plastic chandeliers go to die."

And in attempting to describe a tapas bar in Spain, he had said: "It's that place that has bar stools that look like East European television awards."

Camp

On another occasion when he arrived at a university town hotel called 'Campus', Mr Colgan recalled: "David looked at the name over the door and, in his pink shirt and his bow-tie and even a feather in his hat, turned and said: 'Camp, us?' There is nothing camp about us, dear.

"(He was) the actors' actor. We shall never see his like again," said his old friend.

"As he would say: 'goodbye me auld flower'."

Frank Kelly, known to a generation as Father Jack from the comedy series 'Father Ted', RTE director general Noel Curran, Fiach Mac Conghail of the Abbey Theatre and Pat Moylan, head of the Arts Council, were amongst those who attended the uplifting ceremony.

At the end, the actor legend's son David paid an emotional tribute to the staff of St John of God's Hospital who had cared for his father at the end of his celebrated life. "Thank you so much and, as dad would say: 'mind how you go'," he said.

His coffin was ushered from the church to a round of applause and an organ version of the 'Fawlty Towers' theme tune.

Irish Independent

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