Frank Kelly dead: Star of Father Ted dies aged 77

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The Independent Online

Frank Kelly, the actor who played Father Jack in Father Ted, has died aged 77.

In a career spanning 60 years, Kelly played a string of comic and soap roles, both on the Irish channel RTÉ and in the UK.

His first role, uncredited, was as a prison officer in The Italian Job (1969). In the film's opening sequence, he can be seen escorting gangster Charlie Croker (Michael Caine) out of prison.

Over the years that followed, he spent a five-month stint on Emmerdale, and two years on the RTÉ soap Glenroe. In his last major role, he appeared in Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie (2014), playing a judge. 

But it was his role as the rude, drunken and bellicose Father Jack Hackett that made him popular. He will be particularly remembered for his catchphrase, "Feck".

Tributes are starting to arrive on Twitter, including from Father Ted writer Graham Linehan:

And actor and director David Morrissey, who worked with Kelly on well-received 2003 Channel 4 movie The Deal:

Of course, the word 'feck' appears in virtually every tribute:

His death comes 18 years to the day after the death of his co-star Dermot Morgan, who played the eponymous Father Ted.

Kelly had a string of health problems over the last years of his life. He was given the all-clear in 2011 after contracting bowel cancer, while in 2015 he was treated for skin cancer.

When hospitalised for heart failure in 2015, he was told he had Parkinson's disease. Speaking at the time, he said: "I've been working as an actor for over 50 years, and a shaky hand certainly won't stop me."

"I'm quietly confident that I've had this for years and years. If you are watching what you are doing, you can control it."

"You might have heard of the American actor Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's 22 years ago and is still working today. I'm the same."

He is survived by Bairbre, his wife of 51 years, and also leaves behind 7 children and 17 grandchildren.