Father Jack actor Frank Kelly dies aged 77

File photo dated 03/08/12 of actor Frank Kelly, who has died
File photo dated 03/08/12 of actor Frank Kelly, who has died

The Irish actor who played Father Jack in the Father Ted comedy series has died.

Frank Kelly, 77, spent 60 years on screen and stage.

He died exactly 18 years after the death of his Father Ted co-star Dermot Morgan.

Series writer Graham Linehan tweeted: “Just hearing from various sources that Frank Kelly has passed away.

“Terribly sad news. Thanks for everything.”

Kelly revealed last November that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, although he said he would continue to work.

As well as appearing on the Channel 4 sitcom, he had more recent roles in Emmerdale and Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie.

But he is best known for his role playing the irreverent and foul-mouthed priest Father Jack in a comedy which lampooned Irish Catholicism and proved a massive hit with viewers.

Morgan’s son Don tweeted about the coincidence of the date of his co-star’s death.

“Isn’t life just weird? Frank Kelly going on Dad’s anniversary.”

The programme about three priests and their housekeeper living on the fictional Craggy Island, somewhere off Ireland’s west coast, attracted huge audiences in Ireland, Britain and abroad.

It aired over three series between 1995 and 1998 and won a string of Bafta awards.

Father Jack Hackett was an alcoholic and at times violent clergyman who made no attempt to mask his contempt for his fellow priests.

One of his defining quotes was “Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!”

Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire and Mrs Doyle were shown to be generally tolerant of his drunken antics.

In a recent interview with the Irish Times about Father Ted, Kelly said: “One of my stand-out memories was filming the consecration of the Holy Stone of Clonrichert up on the Cliffs of Moher, which was shot in the middle of a blizzard, with very high winds.

“I was the one nearest the edge and I nearly went over. It’s the nearest I ever came to meeting my maker while working.”

The actor beat bowel cancer in 2011 and underwent procedures to remove two small skin cancers in 2014.