Faithful farewell to ‘Fr Jack’ actor Frank Kelly

It was as if Frank Kelly was trying to have the last laugh.
Faithful farewell to ‘Fr Jack’ actor Frank Kelly

Seven priests adorned the altar at his funeral Mass and there wasn’t a Fr Jack joke between them.

The homily was heartfelt, the music magnificent, and the personal touches so poignant, but what was really needed was a good pungent expletive. Go on, go on, go on seemed to be the congregations’s silent chant.

It took Frank’s son, Emmet, to end the anticipation, wrapping up proceedings with a eulogy that recalled his father’s best known comic creation.

“For a short while, Fr Jack was trending on Twitter ahead of Donald Trump and Leonardo di Caprio,” he said to laughter. “When he gets to heaven, when they choose to let Fr Jack through the duty free at the pearly gates, it’ll be the first time anyone ever told St Peter to feck off.”

Hundreds came to the Church of the Guardian Angels in Blackrock, Dublin, to say farewell to one of the country’s most beloved actors.

President Michael D Higgins and wife Sabina were among those who offered sympathies to Frank’s wife of 51 years, Bairbre, their seven children, 17 grandchildren, and large extended family.

Father Ted writers Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan attended, as did Ardal O’Hanlon, also known as Fr Dougal.

“Sunday after Sunday, 10.45 Mass, tenth seat on the outside — it’s probably contoured to his person,” said celebrant Fr Bill Fortune of the very “normal” Frank of strong faith who was a weekly Mass-goer.

Emmet paid tribute to Frank’s everyday kindness. “Tales where he made a difference to ordinary people were as special to us as his entertaining millions,” he said. “Although when he got a letter from the Queen saying how much she enjoyed the ‘12 Days of Christmas’, I did think that was cool.”

Frank had performed a skit for the family of her majesty declaring: “One is quite amused.” Emmet said: “He had a healthy disrespect for authority.”

Lampooning the high and mighty was just one of his passions. Swimming, running, boating, fishing, music, and all things French were among his great loves.

He was watching the rugby just before his death and a day earlier had declared he wanted to go for a walk — along the Camino Way.

His greatest love was family time. Among the gifts brought to the altar were 17 white roses, one for each grandchild, along with a photo of Lucky, the family dog; a picture of the Forty Foot where he swam, a copy of his autobiography, and a crossword puzzle.

Bairbre penned a reflection for her late husband. “There is another place, where music plays, the stage is set, the light grows dim, the mighty wait to greet you, with applause.”

The congregation rose, clapping, and sent him on his way.

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