From the papers

  Father Ted actor, 45, dies from suspected heart attack

By Rory Carroll and Brian Boyd

Monday March 2, 1998

Dermot Morgan, alias Father Ted, was killed by a suspected heart attack just when the financial security he always craved was within his grasp, an irony possibly too savage even for Craggy Island.

Years of grind and stress verging on mania caught up with the Irish actor on Saturday night when he collapsed during a dinner party at his home in Richmond, south-west London. He was pronounced dead shortly after midnight at West Middlesex hospital. Tomorrow would have been his 46th birthday.

"He basically worked himself into the grave. He never ever stopped," said Gerry Stembridge, a close friend and colleague. Morgan complained of heart palpitations last week.

The third series of Father Ted, due to start on Channel 4 this Friday, will be delayed for a week as a mark of respect, said Graham Linehan, one of its two writers.

The Friday night sitcom, surreal and slapstick, showed Morgan and fellow Irish actors Ardal O'Hanlon, Frank Kelly and Pauline McLynn playing three priests and their housekeeper, living on the fictional Craggy Island, off the west coast of Ireland.

Friends said its huge success - it won a Bafta, two British Comedy Awards and viewer devotion in 10 countries - perhaps came too late to salve a creative energy battered by financial and professional insecurity.

Before he moved to Britain, Morgan's satires led to clashes with the Catholic Church and RTE, Ireland's state-backed broadcaster and his occasional employer.

Last week he said he was retiring from Father Ted to concentrate on solo projects to help secure his finances, which were strained by supporting his house in Richmond, which he shared with his partner and three-year-old son, plus an ex-wife and two other sons in Dublin.

A Chelsea and Shamrock Rovers fan, he signed a deal with Chris Evans's Ginger TV to write a sitcom about two retired footballers, suggesting Denis Waterman as co-star.

He had also just finished a film script about a football match between Ireland and Yugoslavia in the 1950s in Dublin, criticised at the time by the Catholic church hierarchy because of Yugoslavia's then-Communist government.

Tributes were led by the Irish president Mary McAleese, the Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, and other politicians, many of them victims of Morgan's satire.

Frank Kelly, who played Father Jack, said: "He was a kind of comedic meteor. He literally burned himself out."

A former teacher, the young Morgan planned to become a priest before becoming a lapsed Catholic and savaging the church as a stand-up comedian.

Copyright Guardian Media Group plc 1998


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