Actor Mick Lally dies aged 64


The actor Mick Lally has died. He was 64.

He had recently been admitted to hospital where he died this morning.

Famous for his role as Miley Byrne in the TV series Glenroe, he recently voiced a character in the Oscar-winning animation The Secret of Kells.

Born in November 1945 and reared in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo, he was the eldest of a family of seven children; five sisters and one brother. He went to the local national school in Tourmakeady and then to St Mary's College in Galway, the Galway Diocesan College.

Afterwards, he went to UCG where he took history and Irish. He taught history and Irish for six years in Tuam, from 1969-75. He gave that up to found the now Druid Theatre in Galway in 1975 along with Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen.

An acclaimed stage actor he secured a part in the premiere of Brian Friel’s play Translations in Derry in 1980. But he became a household name for the role in the long-running soap opera Glenroe, starring alongside his on-screen wife, Mary McEvoy.

The pair were recently reunited for a new play called The Matchmaker. “I still have something in the back of my head that I’m going to see him next week because we were supposed to be doing The Matchmaker,” she said.

Glen Killane Managing Director of RTÉ Television said Lally’s role as Miley Byrne “truly endeared him to the nation and brought him into people’s homes every Sunday evening over an 18-year period”.

“His great skill as an actor was apparent in the pure, naturalistic believability of the loveable character which he inhabited and made his own.”

As well as countless roles on stage he starred in many television series including RTÉ’s Bracken and BBC’s Ballykissangel before recently appearing in TG4’s Ros na Rún.

He also starred in Oliver Stone’s Hollywood blockbuster Alexander alongside Colin Farrell.

He is survived by his wife Peige and their children Saileog, Darach and Maghnus.

Garry Hynes, artistic director of Druid, said: “The mood [in Druid] is one of total shock and disbelief”. She said: “Mick Lally was a man without measure. He was my hero and I looked up to him.

“Druid owes everything to him. If he hadn’t agreed to join Marie and I in the summer of 1975 then Druid would not have existed. Everyone at Druid has lost a colleague and dear friend agus inniú chaill an tír seo duine lách cineálta uasail. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

Mick Lally’s agent Teri Hayden said “a more thoughtful, intelligent person you could not wish to meet”.

“The best way you could describe Mick would be to say he was a gentle man. Mick's death is a loss to the industry and the country at large. He was a special man and was loved by everyone.“

Chairman of the Arts Council Pat Moylan said Lally’s death is a “sad and shocking loss to all of us”.

Ms Moylan added: “While Mick will always be best known and fondly remembered as Miley from Glenroe, the theatre community will also be mourning the loss of a talented and dedicated professional who worked in all the major theatres in the country.”

“He was a talented actor and a gentleman, and his loss will be felt by those both outside and within the wider arts community.”

The cast and crew of Ros na Rún also expressed their sincere condolences to his family and friends.

A statement issued on their behalf said Lally was extremely well liked and admired by the entire team, in both a personal and professional capacity.

“Throughout his career, Mick Lally made a huge contribution to drama and theatre in Ireland, particularly through the Irish language. He was an inspiration to all and he will be sadly missed,” it added. Lally played the role of businessman Éamon De Faoite in the series from 2008 to 2009.

Director of the Abbey Theatre Fiach MacConghail said Lally had “a unique musicality in his language. He was very good as an actor. He was able to be as good in Irish and English and he acted in over 20 productions in the Abbey.”

“He was a quiet, humble man who also provided leadership within a company during a run,” he added.

The Abbey Theatre announced there will be a standing ovation following tonight’s performance of The Plough and the Stars to celebrate the life and work of the actor.

Michael Scott Artistic Director of City Theatre Dublin described the news as a “terrible shock” saying “it’s like an icon has disappeared suddenly”.

“He brought a great sense of life and love of the theatre to the stage…you don’t find these sort of people often,” he added.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen led the political tributes to Lally and extended his sympathies to his family.

Mr Cowen said: “He was one of the most loved actors of his generation and will be dearly missed by the public and his colleagues in theatre and television.

“Versatile in both the Irish and English languages, his genius at capturing and portraying the essence of the characters he played brought him wide popular and critical acclaim,” he added.

Minister for Culture Mary Hanafin said Mick Lally’s “contribution to the theatrical world has been immense”.

“Whether he was voicing Keane, Synge or indeed Burrows, his was a distinctive, inimitable contribution to our stage and screen craft.

Labour’s Michael D Higgins said he heard of the news with “great sorrow and shock”.

He said Lally made a set of “ground breaking” contributions to Irish theatre on stage, television and radio and was a “consistent supporter of causes where rights were at stake”.

Mr Higgins described the actor as a native Irish speaker at the forefront of development of the Irish language in an “open and generous way”.

Mary Upton, the party spokeswoman on Arts also expressed her condolences on his death. Ms Upton said Lally was a “brilliant actor” and one who will “be sadly missed”.

Green Party leader John Gormley said the actor “represented a very real part of Irish culture”.

“He had an amazing ability to connect with the audience and to tell a story, whether on stage or on television. As a passionate Irish speaker, he was often to be heard singing a sean nós song or telling a folk tale.”

“He was a true artist and his death at such a young age leaves a huge void,” Mr Gormley added.

Fine Gael’s culture spokesman Jimmy Deenihan said he learned of the Lally's passing with “great sadness”.

“Not alone was Mick a great actor but he was a fine individual. He was amenable to all who met him, and he will be a major loss to the Irish stage,” Mr Deenihan added.