On this day in 1952: birth of comedian, actor and Father Ted star Dermot Morgan
Life & Style

On this day in 1952: birth of comedian, actor and Father Ted star Dermot Morgan

ON THIS day in 1952, one of Ireland's greatest comedians and actors, Dermot Morgan, was born.

Best known for his role as Father Ted Crilly on the hit Channel 4 sitcom, Morgan was born in Dublin to Hilda (née Stokes) and artist and sculptor Donnchadh Morgan.

When his father passed away from an aneurysm, Dermot's mother was left to raise him with his other siblings Paul, Denise and Ruth, who died in childhood.

Dermot went on to study English literature and philosophy at University College Dublin, which is where he honed his comic skills.

He also was part of a country and Irish band called Big Gom and the Imbeciles, a 'tribute' act to Big Tom and The Mainliners.

He then worked as an English teacher at St Michael's College in Aylesbury Road before quitting to become a full-time performer.



Morgan came to prominence as part of the team behind the highly successful RTÉ television show The Live Mike, presented by Mike Murphy.

Between 1979 and 1982, he played a wide range of comic characters who appeared between segments on the show.

One that show, he played a hippie priest known as Father Trendy, sporting an Elvis-style haircut and, sometimes, leather jacket. Other characters included a GAA member who waved his Hurley around while verbally attacking his pet hates.

In December 1985 he released a comedy single 'Thank You Very Very Much, Mr Eastwood', which was a take on the praise that Irish boxer Barry McGuigan gave his manager, Barney Eastwood, at the end of successive bouts. The song was the Christmas number one on the Irish singles chart in 1985.


He later went on to appear on the Saturday morning radio comedy show Scrap Saturday, in which he mocked Ireland's political, business and media establishment alongside others. In 1991, he received a Jacob's Award for his contribution to the show from the Irish national newspaper radio critics.


Personal life

Morgan was married to German woman Suzanne Garmatz, with whom he had two sons. He later began a relationship with Fiona Clarke, with whom he had another son.

Although he had been raised as a Catholic and had briefly considered becoming a priest during childhood, Morgan became an atheist in his later life, and his vocal criticism of the Catholic Church came through in this work.

He supported Irish football club Shamrock Rovers FC and English football club Chelsea FC.


Father Ted

However, it was Channel 4's Father Ted that made Morgan a household name across the UK and Ireland.

The show, written by Graham Lineham and Arthur Mathews, ran for three seasons from 1995 to 1998 following the misadventures of Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon) and Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly) and Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn).

In 1996, the show won a BAFTA for Best Comedy, with Morgan winning a British Comedy Award for Top TV Comedy Actor and McLynn for Top TV Comedy Actress.

In 1999, the show again won a BAFTA for Best Comedy, with Morgan being awarded Best Comedy performance posthumously.




Aged just 45, Morgan had just finished filming the very last episode of the Channel 4 hit sitcom when he passed away on 28 February 1998.

The day after filming wrapped, Morgan invited friends and family to his London home to celebrate with dinner and drinks when he began feeling unwell.

Speaking shortly after his death, his sister Denise described the moment a heart attack took her brother.

"He wasn't feeling great at the end of the meal and I went to the bedroom with him," she said.

"He had a heart attack and I didn't recognise it.

"From my limited training in first aid, I wasn't sure exactly what was happening. The symptoms didn't match what the books said. I said to him 'I think you're okay', and we went back to the table.

"He apologised for having left the room and the next thing he just collapsed. We tried to resuscitate him but it didn't work. He had a massive heart attack."

As the news spread across Ireland, the UK and beyond, many high-profile figures paid tribute to his talent, with President Mary McAleese calling him "a gifted entertainer and an exceptional talent".

Taoiseach at the time, Bertie Ahern, spoke to RTÉ Newsfollowing the announcement of his death, and while he acknowledged he had been the butt of many of Morgan's jokes, he said it was "a bit of fun" and that he would miss his talent.

At the time, he had been writing the screenplay for a film set in Ireland, and had completed it at the time of his death, but it was never made.

He had also been commissioned to write a drama series for the BBC, and was due to begin filming another sitcom in which he was the starring role, but all of these never came to fruition.

Despite his atheism, Morgan received a Requiem Mass at St Therese's Church in the South Dublin suburb of Mount Merrion, which was attended by president Mary McAleese and her predecessor Mary Robinson as well as many Irish political and religious leaders who were often the target of his jokes.

His body was cremated and his ashes were buried in the family plot at Deans Grange Cemetery.