Tributes from all over the world have been paid to Brendan Grace who died on Wednesday night.
Grace had been in hospital for the past month following a bout of pneumonia and he had been receiving treatment and care for cancer. He died aged 68 in Galway surrounded by his loved ones.
Dublin born Brendan began his career in entertainment as a singer with The Gingermen, a band he formed in the at the age of 18. His first gig with the band outside of the capital was at The Galleon Inn in Kilrush with regular performances at The Merriman Tavern in Scariff. His 1975 song Combine Harvester was a number one hit in Ireland.
It is his comic brilliance that the father of four will be best remembered, he created well-known characters such as Bottler and gave his unique take as The Father of the Bride. Brendan appeared on Fr. Ted as Fr. Fintan Stack, “I had my fun and that’s all that matters” being one of his memorable lines from the one episode appearance.
Though born in Dublin, Brendan had a great love for County Clare. Brendan Grace Pub was located on the main street in Killaloe and closed in 2011, he was known by every single person in the town, shopping locally and getting his hair cut locally living in Ballina during this spell. Pat Reddan of Reddan’s Pub was one of those to pay tribute to the late comedian. “He was a great character and always had good things to say about everyone. He was always telling jokes, the craic would be had when he was around”.
Killaloe councillor Tony O’Brien (FF) thanked the comic for his contribution to East Clare. “Brendan was a true gentleman for many years he was Ireland’s greatest entertainer who gave freely of his talent his humour and his time to help others. On his arrival in Killaloe he helped and assisted a wide range of clubs organisations and individuals”.
He was an annual performer in Spanish Point, in a 2015 interview on Clare FM’s Morning Focus, Grace commented of the county. “I’ve always loved being here going back the years, long before the motorways and everything. Clare was always appealing to me for the lovely coastal roads, there we have The Wild Atlantic Way, we’ve had it for four million years but we’ve only discovered it two years ago, I’m delighted to see it. There is a special thing about Clare, that’s why I ended up living in Killaloe and Ballina on the banks of the majestic Shannon”.
Doonbeg’s Michael O’Doherty is a friend of the Grace family, he said “It was a privilege to have been a friend of Brendan’s. A very gentle, loving caring and compassionate soul who brought light and happiness to many many people. There is an emptiness in the hearts and homes of the young and old in Ireland and around the world today and will be felt for some time”.
“He was a great people person, he knew everybody, spent time after his shows and was usually the last person to leave the auditorium whether it be a theatre or hotel venue, he would be the last to leave and would meet everybody after the show, he would everybody who wanted to meet him, to have a chat or a photograph, he could spend as much time after a show as he would on stage,” his manager Tom Kelly recalled.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Liveline, Brendan’s daughter, Melanie Gillespie confirmed that the family left “no stone unturned” regarding possible treatments for him. “It’s been several tough blows in a very short period of time, to be told that your dad has pneumonia and then to be told he has terminal cancer. It’s very difficult but we dealt with it so well and we came together as a united family with a strength that I don’t think any of us realised we had. And it was only then we realised it was him who was feeding us the strength. I’ve never seen somebody to face such a horrible prognosis with his own name that he was born with, he faced it with grace and dignity and bravery.”
Melanie revealed that she had spent the last ten days by her father’s bedside and her mother Eileen and sister Amanda had been present with him in hospital for five weeks. “If my mother stepped out of the room for a second, he’d say, ‘Where’s my beautiful Eileen?’ or if he was feeling a bit funny he’d say, ‘Where’s me mot?’ and we’d have to go and get his mot for him. And when he laid his eyes on her his whole body would sink into a beautiful, deep calm and he kept kissing her and thanking her for being his rock. It was the most beautiful thing.”
President Michael D. Higgins recently welcomed Grace to the Áras during a garden party with The Forget Me Nots choir. Higgins spoke of his “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”. The President was confident the characters would endure “precisely because they are both recognisable and representative of the experiences lived and recalled by Irish people of all ages”.
In later years he divided his time between Ireland and the US. He had suffered ill health but continued to perform and tour and had been due to tour Ireland this summer before being diagnosed with cancer.
Brendan Grace is survived by his wife Eileen, children and grandchildren. His funeral will take place on Monday at 1pm in the Church of St Nicholas of Myra, Francis Street, Dublin 8.