'Irascible' actor TP McKenna dies in London, aged 81


THE DEATH has occurred of actor TP McKenna (81), well known for his stage, film and television work, spanning more than half a century, in Ireland and Britain.

Following several years on the stage he began appearing in popular television dramas from the 1960s including Dangerman, Adam Adamant, The Avengers, The Saint, Jason King, The Sweeney. Blakes 7, Doctor Whoand Minder. He also had film roles in Ulysses(1967), Straw Dogs(1971), and A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man(1977).

Born in Mullagh, Co Cavan, in 1929, McKenna took a job in Ulster Bank in Granard, Co Longford, straight from school in the late 1940s. He had always intended to become an actor and following a transfer to a Dublin branch of the bank quickly became involved in local amateur drama.

Having fallen behind with his bank exams, he was offered a transfer back to Cavan, which cemented his resolve to take up acting full-time, his son Breffní said yesterday. “He joined the Abbey Theatre in 1954 following the suggestion that he would be sent back to Killeshandra in Cavan. He left the bank and didn’t look back.”

In addition to his work in Irish theatre, he played with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre Company. His West End debut was as Cranly in Stephen Dat the St Martin’s Theatre in 1963.

He also directed, with productions of The Playboy of the Western World, The Death and Resurrection of Mr Roacheand Shadow of A Gunmanto his credit.

He died on Sunday evening in London following a long illness. He is survived by his sons Rafe, Killian, Breffní and Stephen and his daughter Sally.

He will be laid to rest in Mullagh alongside his wife May, who died five years ago.

Breffní McKenna yesterday said his father would be deeply missed and fondly remembered by family and friends. “He was an irascible old bugger, but I loved him.”