Obituary: Pat Laffan – ‘actor best known for playing milkman Pat Mustard in Father Ted’
Pat Laffan’s contribution to Irish theatre went far beyond the iconic brace of comic performances he will be remembered for: the libidinous milkman Pat Mustard in television’s Father Ted and Georgie Burgess, who impregnates his daughter’s friend, in the 1993 film version of Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper.
Born in Dollardstown, County Meath, he studied engineering at University College Dublin, where he began acting in student productions. Three days after graduating, he made his professional debut at the Abbey Theatre in 1961 and went on to become a regular presence on the stage of Ireland’s national theatre despite his mother’s objections.
Shortly after Laffan joined the Abbey, his mother wrote to its then managing director Ernest Blythe asking him to sack her son. When the actor demurred from ceding to his mother’s wishes, Blythe promptly gave him a pay rise and brought him into the theatre’s permanent company alongside TP McKenna, Ray McAnally and Marie Keane.
Early successes included two 1964 Sean O’Casey revivals: a Johnny Boyle “charged with passionate feeling”, The Stage reported, in Juno and the Paycock and Lieutenant Langon in The Plough and the Stars, which was also seen at the Aldwych Theatre.
In 1966, he appeared in Walter Macken’s Recall the Years, a portmanteau history of the Abbey and the first production in its newly built home. Over the next 40 years, he proved himself adept in a wide range of classic, contemporary and new work, taking his leave of the house as Scruple in George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer in 2007.
Appointed director of the Abbey’s Peacock studio in 1976, he championed writers such as Stewart Parker, Maeve Binchy, Fergus Linehan and Michael Harding during and after his three-year tenure.
Away from the Abbey, he had a long-standing relationship with its Gate Theatre neighbour, where he was a memorable Sir Toby Belch in Joe Dowling’s 1988 jazz age-set Twelfth Night and was resident director from 1981-83, directing admired productions of Hugh Leonard’s The Saints Go Cycling In (1984) and Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape (1991).
His work in the commercial sector included Brian Friel’s Translations (1988) and as a powerful Bull McCabe in John B Keane’s The Field (1996) at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre, where he had scored a success directing Keane’s The Man from Clare in 1992.
In 1995, he was seen in O’Casey’s The Silver Tassie at the Almeida Theatre.
His 70 screen credits included William Trevor’s Events at Drimaghleen (1991), Martin Lynch and Mark Bussell’s Sailortown (1993), Lynda La Plante’s The Governor (1996) and EastEnders (1997) for British television. In Ireland, he was seen in Strumpet City (1980) and On Home Ground (2001), and, for French television, Les Roses de Dublin (1981).
Film appearances included Barry Lyndon (1975), Space Truckers (1996), The Queen (2006) and War Horse (2011).
Pat Laffan was born on June 8, 1939, and died on March 14, aged 79.
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