Fans mourn sudden
death of Dermot Morgan
By Brian Boyd
The Ted heads are in tears. The many fans of Father Ted burnt up the Internet yesterday to share their sorrow at the news of Dermot Morgan's death.
In a level of Internet activity that has been described as "unprecedented" for an entertainment site, thousands of people went online to express their grief that the last cup of tea had been served on Craggy Island.
Dermot Morgan, who would have been 46 tomorrow, collapsed at his Richmond home late on Saturday night while hosting a dinner party for friends. He was rushed to the nearby West Middlesex Hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after midnight yesterday after doctors fought for 30 minutes to revive him. It is believed he died of a massive heart attack.
Dermot Morgan had been complaining of heart palpitations in the days leading up to his death early yesterday according to his close friends. It is believed that his concern for his health kept him away from the traditional "wrap party" to mark the end of the filming of the third series of Father Ted in London last Friday night. The arrangements for his funeral will be made known later this week. He is survived by his partner, Fiona, and their young son, Ben. He was separated from his wife, Susanne, with whom he has two teenage children, Donnchadh and Robert.
"I think he basically worked himself into the grave," said his close friend and professional collaborator, Gerry Stembridge. "Dermot was always `on' in the showbiz sense of the word. He had bundles of nervous energy and he never ever stopped. Many people tried to get him to slow down and relax but to no avail. In many ways the freelance system killed him. He has always been hired for short-term work and then let go and he had to tour his stand-up show around the country to make a living. He felt very let down by RTÉ when they pulled Scrap Saturday and I'm only glad he got some of the recognition he deserved with his award-winning role as Father Ted," he said.
Morgan announced last week that he was retiring from Father Ted to concentrate on his own solo projects. Last year he signed a development deal with Chris Evans's Ginger TV to write and star in his own sitcom about two retired footballers sharing a flat.
He had also finished a script about the controversial football match in Dublin in the 1950s between the Republic of Ireland and Yugoslavia, which was criticised by the Catholic hierarchy of the time due to the then Communist government in Yugoslavia. The film was to be directed by Gerry Stembridge.
It is believed that the third and final eight-part series of Father Ted which was due to go out on Channel 4 next Friday night will still be broadcast, pending consultations with Dermot Morgan's family, although it will be delayed for a week. Arthur Mathews, who writes Father Ted with Graham Linehan, said of Morgan: "He was very easy to write for it, and brilliant in it. And he got recognition for being brilliant in it. It's not that easy a role and I cannot imagine anyone else having done it. He really made it his own". Dublin journalist Liam Mackey was in the studio with Morgan at the shooting of Father Ted last Friday night and said he appeared to be in good health. "He really was on top of the world and particularly delighted about the progress his own sitcom was making with Ginger TV. He had invited the Irish soccer manager Mick McCarthy down to the studio as well and he was his usual affable, funny self. It's a massive loss."