Father's Day last year was the family's last outing with Brendan Grace outside of hospital before he passed away. His daughter Amanda shares family photos, recalls the good times, and reveals how the family is coping in the aftermath of his death.
On Father’s Day last year, Brendan Grace’s family whisked him away to a well known Co Galway seafood restaurant to celebrate the special occasion.
As fate would have it, this would be the last public outing for the 68-year-old legendary entertainer.
Just a month later, the godfather of Irish comedy lost his battle with lung cancer at the Galway Clinic, surrounded by his wife Eileen and their children Amanda, Melanie, Bradley and Brendan Patrick.
“Father’s Day last year was the day after he was diagnosed,” Amanda told the Sunday World, as she recalled the life and times of one of Ireland’s best-loved entertainers, and the father she adored.
“We took him out of the hospital and we escaped for the day. We went to Moran’s on the Weir,” she continued.
“The diagnosis wasn’t terminal at that stage, but I just sensed that something was badly wrong. I kept having to leave the table. I spent the whole day crying. I had had a premonition a couple of months prior to that, so once he got the diagnosis it put the hair standing on the back of my neck.
“On the day, Dad ate everything. Thank God his appetite was never impacted, so he had the crab claws and the seafood platter, the bread, a pint of Guinness and an Irish coffee.
“He had a feast, like he always did. I remember watching him feasting and I was feasting on that, watching him enjoying himself.
“That was the last meal he had outside of the hospital. So, Father’s Day last year was our last day out with him.”
Looking back on her life growing up with the funnyman who charmed the nation, Amanda laughed as she recalled her personal memories.
“Dad was just like another one of the kids,” she said. “My poor mother had five children when you include Dad, and he was the eldest. I wasn’t the eldest, he was. He was a total child. He never lost that. There was a bit of Peter Pan about him. He never lost that innocence.”
“As kids, he used to love to tell us stories about fairies and ruins of castles. I’d go on the gigs with him because I was a night owl, and back in those days there were a lot of hitch-hikers. When we’d pass one coming home at night Dad would suddenly turn around to me and say, ‘Oh, did you see him, he had no head!’ We’d be going so fast you’d only see a blur. We might pass another one and he’d shout, ‘There he is again!’ So we used to have to look out for the headless hitch-hiker every night returning from his gigs.”
As the eldest child, Amanda was very close to Brendan and she remembers being resentful when people sought her father’s attention out in public.
“As a younger child it was a bit stressful sharing him with people because he used to get mobbed a lot back in those days, and you’d be trampled on. In the early ‘80s, when he was doing the ‘Free a Nipper’ TV ads for Maxol, he got a lot of attention.
“Maybe it was because I was three-foot high that it just felt more intense back then. Someone would always take him away from me and I resented that because I wanted to keep him to myself.
“But he was also very cool. He had motor bikes and I remember one time he brought me on the back of his Honda 90 to a recording studio. We brought a packed lunch and I was sitting there with my colouring book and my lunch box while he recorded a song. That was very exciting to me.”
Amanda recalled great family holidays in Ireland with Brendan, including Killarney in the summer when he’d be performing at The Gleneagle, and at their mobile home in Carne, Wexford.
But there were also exciting trips to Disneyland in America. “We always went to Disneyland. Dad had family in America, but he also had a love affair with America,” Amanda revealed.
“Everything in America was bigger, he got more of everything, and Dad loved more. We loved it, but we never talked about it when we went back to school because nobody else we knew was going to Disneyland at the time, and me and my sister were embarrassed that we were going.
“We didn’t mention it because we didn’t want to stand out at school for fear of being picked on, but it was impossible not to. My dad would sometimes send me in to school with a box of cassette tapes of his latest release for all the teachers and students, and then I’d be mobbed.
“He was very generous. He just loved that he had the ability and the resources to be able to give. That was one of his greatest joys, the privilege that he had, that he could give.”
“As a teenager I had the cool parents because I was able to smoke in front of them. I didn’t have to hide the fact that I was smoking and drinking. I told my parents I smoked when I was about 14.
“The whole Bottler thing with my dad wasn’t too far removed from the truth. Bottle was kinda based on him. As a kid, Dad would have been a little divil, a little rogue, he would have been smoking when he was young, and so my dad didn’t freak out when I was smoking. I think he bought me cigarettes, it was almost like an initiation. It goes back to him nearly being my bigger brother half the time.
“Dad was all about family, he loved people and he loved my husband, Terry. Him and me da were the best of friends, they loved each other. Terry is a driver and they were both my GPS. If I was going somewhere Dad would be giving me directions and they’d be so specific, ‘When you get into the town, just past the post office there’s a f**ker of pothole, mind that.’ He knew every stone on the road.
“At home in the house he was a disaster. He had an office, but he preferred to be at the kitchen table. His office was spread everywhere, every available surface, you couldn’t have a tidy space when he was at home.
“Half the grief of my mother now is just having all this time that she doesn’t know how to fill, because most of it was spent tidying up after Dad. He grazed on food all day long. He loved food, it was his hobby, and he was a great cook.
“Terry and I are now living with mum. We’re finding a new way to inhabit the house now that Dad is gone, although he’s very much still here as well.
“It’s a work in progress to occupy this house in a new way.
“Dad has left a massive void because he took up so much space in every way in our lives.”
Brendan's tin food collection...
Brendan Grace collected tin food like he was preparing for a war, his daughter Amanda revealed.
He had a shelf in the family home packed with cans that included dog food – despite the fact that he didn’t own a dog!
Amanda says that if he was still around for this current Covid-19 pandemic, Brendan would have felt vindicated.
“My dad loved anything in a tin…peas, beans, Ambrosia creamed rice, Spam…he had a whole section of the house for tins,” she said.
“He’d go out and look at them and admire his collection of imperishable foods. We used to say to him, ‘There isn’t a war coming, Dad!’
“What we’re saying now is that he would have been prepared for this pandemic. He would have loved this because it would have meant that he got to use all his imperishable supplies and remind us every day, ‘Now, you see!” she laughed.
“My dad didn’t even own a dog and he had tins of dog food on that shelf. He was a headcase. When he’d be buying another tin I’d shoot him a look and he’d just shrug and say, ‘It’s a disease, Amanda.’
“Stocking up on his supplies over the years was him preparing for the war that eventually came.”
Brendan and Eileen...
Amanda Grace spoke of the love her parents shared and says her mum, Eileen, is “doing good” as she comes to terms with her devastating loss.
“She’s a very strong, independent, capable and sociable woman and she has a lot of resilience,” Amanda said.
“She was my dad’s biggest fan and supporter, helper and carer. They spent the last 10 years on the road together. They were best friends.
“We are privileged in that way, that our parents not only loved each other, but liked each other. They were very much a team. They had an amazing life together, a massive adventure. They did it all and she has incredible memories.
via Sunday World