President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have led tributes to the late Brendan Grace, who died earlier today of lung cancer. He was 68.
President Higgins said: “As a comedian Brendan’s spontaneous wit and his sense of timing, his obvious delighting in interaction with his audiences, meant that Brendan’s sense of humour was drawing from, and itself a profound contribution to, the deep wellspring of Irish wit.
“His best-loved characters will endure, precisely because they are both recognisable and representative of the experiences lived and recalled by Irish people of all ages.
“It was a privilege to know him, and a pleasure to meet Brendan as recently as the 5th of June last, when he accompanied The Forget Me Nots choir to a Garden Party at Áras an Uachtaráin.
“As President of Ireland, I express my deepest condolences to his wife Eileen, his children Bradley, Melanie, Brendan and Amanda, and to his wider family and his friends, and all who valued his acuity and sharp sense of humour.”
Mr Varadkar tweeted his tribute soon after Brendan’s death was announced: “#RIP Brendan Grace, an Irish comedy legend. You made us laugh so many times, from Bottler to Father Ted and so many others. One of the greats. Our thoughts are with Brendan’s friends and family.”
His namesake and fellow Dub, Brendan O’Carroll, for whose brand of humour he arguably paved the way (and who also lives away from Ireland in the US) said: “Rest peacefully Bottler, you’ve earned it”.
Brendan was born on April Fools’ Day 1951 in The Liberties in Dublin, near the Guinness Brewery, and from the mid-1970s- when his comedy records topped the charts – was Ireland’s most consistently popular live stand-up comic.
Among his most enduring routines and characters were the gurrier schoolboy Bottler, an inebriated father of the bride and singing priest Fr Michael McGillicuddy.
Like Billy Connolly – another huge comic of the 1970s whose appeal persisted through the decades – Grace actually started out as a folk singer whose band The Gingermen often got gigs as the warm-up act for the popular showbands of the late 1960s. At the height of his stand-up success he used his fine singing voice on some comedy pastiche novelty records.
In 1973 Brendan Grace married Eileen Doyle of whom he said: “My very best friend is Eileen. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for me, and that’s how it’s been for the past 45 years. Doing nothing for each other.”
The couple, who had four children, daughters Melanie and Amanda, and sons Bradley and Brendan Patrick,
eventually moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, which he used as a base while continuing to regularly tour in Ireland. He also owned a pub in Killaloe, Co Clare.
He discovered a new, younger audience in 1996 when he was cast in a one-off appearance in Father Ted as the memorably odious Fr Fintan Stack.
Ironically, Brendan had not been a fan of the show but auditioned for the part and found fans reciting his lines back to him years later.
Last year he was forced to cancel his regular summer tour after his diagnosis of lung cancer while in hospital being treated for pneumonia.
He had endured ill health for several years, including diabetes, and had to perform his act sitting down and wearing slippers.
Photographs by Rollingnews.ie and Photocall Ireland