Leading Irish actor David Kelly dies

Michael Quinn

David Kelly, one of Ireland’s most recognisable and successful actors, has died at the age of 82.

Born in Dublin, he began acting at the age of eight and was still performing up until last year. British audiences first encountered him in the 1960s and 1970s in a series of often eccentric scene-stealing guest appearances in television sitcoms, including Oh Father, Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width, On the Buses, and as the feckless builder Mr O’Reilly in an episode of Fawlty Towers.

He became a household name in the BBC comedy Me Mammy in the late 1960s, playing alongside Milo O’Shea and Anna Manahan, and added a welcome touch of the absurd as a one-armed dishwasher in the Man About the House spin-off, Robin’s Nest, over six series from 1977. He also appeared in RTE’s 1980 adaptation of James Plunkett’s Strumpet City, and in episodes of Emmerdale Farm, Glenroe, and Ballykissangel.

His theatre work included the first staging of Brendan Behan’s The Quare Fellow and a career-defining appearance in Krapp’s Last Tape at the Abbey Theatre in his native Dublin in 1959.

On film, he made memorable contributions to The Italian Job, Waking Ned, The Jigsaw Man (opposite Laurence Olivier), Stardust, and Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as Grandpa Joe.

He won an ESB “special tribute” Theatre Award in 2002, and a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Film and Television Academy in 2005.

He died, following a short illness, on February 13.

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