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'One of the great entertainers of this era': Tributes paid as Brendan Grace dies aged 68

The hugely popular comedian was being treated for lung cancer.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated Jul 11th 2019, 11:22 AM

COMEDIAN BRENDAN GRACE has died aged 68, his representative has confirmed.  

The veteran comedian, who regularly drew large audiences to his live shows, announced earlier this month that he was cancelling a number of tour dates in July and August so he could receive medical treatment. 

He was initially hospitalised with pneumonia but it was later discovered he was also suffering from lung cancer. 

Brendan’s business manager, Tom Kelly, issued the following statement: 

“Brendan Grace passed away peacefully early this morning at surrounded by his loving family. Aged 68 he will be fondly remembered by his legion of fans at home and abroad.” 

After starting his career as a musician in the 1960s, Grace went on to widespread standup and TV success in Ireland. 

His performances of much-loved routines like ‘Father of the Bride’ and ‘Chinese Takeaway’ built a loyal audience for his shows and his one-off specials consistently achieved high ratings for TV3, prompting the broadcaster to commission an animated special based on his schoolboy character ‘Bottler’. 

Grace won over a new generation of fans in the 1990s as a result of his turn as malevolent priest Fr Fintan Stack in the Father Ted series. 

Over the course of his career he also toured with Frank Sinatra and John Denver.

He had a number one hit in Ireland with his song Combine Harvester – later covered by The Wurzels in the UK, where it also reached number one. 

Even after he was firmly established as a comedian, music regularly featured in his act – he often closed shows with renditions of songs like Dublin in the Rare Ould Times.  

He lived in Florida in recent years, making regular returns to Ireland to perform. 

Tom Kelly told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the comedian was “one of the great entertainers of this era”.

“You could see at every show how people just warmed to him.

On nights when the audience might not have been very warm – that very seldom happened – he could turn around, pick up his guitar and sing a song with great authority. 

Said Kelly: “All in all, we can look back with pride at Brendan’s lifetime. Great family man, very close to his family. Just adored by his fans all over the country and indeed abroad as well. His popularity spread right around the world.”

President Michael D Higgins said as a comedian Grace’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. 

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.

Source: RTÉ - IRELAND’S NATIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA/YouTube

Fellow comedian and Mrs Browns Boys creator Brendan O’Carroll tweeted this morning that Grace had opened doors “for so many of us” in showbusiness “and leaves a legacy of love and laughter that will echo through this land”.

O’Carroll added “we will all mourn his passing”.

Rest peacefully Bottler, you’ve earned it.

Comedian June Rogers told Morning Ireland that Brendan will be “sorely missed by a lot of people in Ireland”.

“He was very kind to me when I started out. There was one song he had called Bridget McCann and I remember contacting him and asking him would it be possible for me to use it. I was doing a show at the time and he very kindly gave it to me.

“He was very much a wonderful family man.” 

Source: Niall Shanahan/YouTube

Brendan was cast in the Father Ted series as the aforementioned Fr Fintan Stack, a role that brought him to a new audience. The show’s co-creator Arthur Matthews told The Ryan Tubridy Show this morning that he “always liked the idea of casting people I knew as a kid and was a fan of”.

“We didn’t write it [the part] with him in mind but he did an audition. It was different from what we expected but it was very funny.

“It was more subtle really and a bit more passive-aggressive than outwardly aggressive. It was really sinister,” Matthews joked. 

He was a legend, he really was. It’s a big loss definitely.

File Photo Brendan Grace Has Died. End. Brendan Grace at the Gaiety Theatre in 2006 for the launch of his handprints ceremony, celebrating 35 years in comedy. Source: RollingNews.ie

RTÉ Director-General, Dee Forbes described Brendan as one of Ireland’s original funnymen and pioneer of Irish comedy. 

“While there are now many Irish comedians who are household names, Brendan emerged as a talent during an era when there were very few established Irish comedians. 

Importantly, he also paved the way for many of the wonderful comedians this country has produced over the last 20 years or so and leaves behind a legacy he and his family can be proud of. He will be deeply missed. My thoughts and those of his many friends and fans across RTÉ are with his family and friends at this sad time.

In October 2018, to mark Brendan’s 50 years in the entertainment business, RTÉ screened the documentary, Brendan Grace – Funny Man. The documentary will be repeated at 10.15pm on RTÉ One tonight.

Dublin City Council has opened a book of condolence for fans to pay their respects to the much loved Dublin comedian.

Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe described Brendan as “a true Dubliner who captured the unique Dublin sense of humour and brought it to audiences at home and across the world”. 

The Mansion House will be open to the public today from 12 noon until 5pm and from 10am to 5pm tomorrow. 

Brendan is survived by his wife Eileen, children and grandchildren. 

- With reporting from Adam Daly 

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Daragh Brophy

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