Abbey Theatre doorman who was also a painter and a singer

 

Padraig O'Faolain:PÁDRAIG Ó FAOLÁIN, who has died aged 61, worked for 20 years at the Abbey Theatre as the stage doorman.

He was known to hundreds of actors as “Father Pat”, because he defined the job as embracing the care and welfare of those who passed through the doors of the Abbey, particularly young or novice actors who needed to feel welcome in a formidable and world-famous institution.

Born in Dublin in 1947, he was the youngest of three brothers. He spent his early life in Sutton and Rathmines. He became interested in painting in his early 20s and shared a studio with Geoff Steiner-Scott in Lincoln Lane for a period in the early 1970s.

He married Caragh Coote in 1973 and they had a daughter, Tamsin.

He lived in Amsterdam in the mid-1970s, returning to Ireland to live in Mountjoy Square in Dublin’s north inner city. In 1977, he met Caitríona Crowe, and they lived together in Mountjoy Square until the early 1990s, when they moved to the North Strand.

His house on Mountjoy Square was a ramshackle Georgian building in which he had a studio. He shared the house with other painters, while Brian Maguire, Eithne Jordan and Dusan Kusmic had studios there.

It was the kind of arrangement that is impossible now, with every building in Dublin out of the reach of most impecunious artists, but then it was a centre of easy and fruitful connection between like-minded people, with many parties and gatherings.

During this time, he painted a number of murals in the area, including, at the request of the tenants, a crucifixion in Grenville Street flats, which survives.

He worked as artist in residence in the Simon Community in the mid-1980s, an engagement which resulted in a fine exhibition of paintings by some of Simon’s residents.

He had two one-man exhibitions in Temple Bar Galleries, in 1983 and 1986, both of which sold well. He was preparing for another in 1993, when his studio was vandalised and burned. Much work was lost and this was a great blow to him.

He painted small pictures for friends, but never got back to full-time painting.

His job in the theatre became the focus of his working life. He loved actors, writers, directors and all of the other people who make up a show, and always went to see the dress rehearsals at the Abbey in his own time.

At his funeral service, the actor Phelim Drew described him as a gentleman who was young at heart, forever offering friendship and fun. “He was always very good to young actors, visiting actors or anybody coming back after an absence. He made you feel special.

“As his affectionate nickname implies, he was a confessor of sorts – always there for other people.”

He was a supporter of Independent socialist TD Tony Gregory from 1979, when he was first elected to Dublin City Council, until his untimely death two weeks ago. He worked on most of Gregory’s campaigns, leafleting the local area and persuading his friends to vote for him.

Dublin was his city and he knew it very well, particularly the inner city and its late-night venues. Like most people who work in theatre, he did his socialising late at night, and was adept at choosing the most appropriate places for socialising, chatting, playing snooker and singing.

His singing voice, a light baritone, was one of his most admired assets. He had a huge repertoire of songs, ranging from the 18th-century anti-war song The White Cockade to Woody Guthrie’s Deportees, from Blackwaterside to The Croppy Boy.

As the curtains closed in the crematorium at Glasnevin, the congregation heard a recording of him singing She Moved Through the Fair.

He is survived by his partner Caitríona Crowe, his daughter Tamsin, his grandchildren Aoife and Dáire, and his brothers, Paul and Lawrence Whelan.

Pádraig Ó Faoláin: born May 15th, 1947; died January 16th, 2009