Tributes to ‘unique and wonderful’ actor Pat Laffan at funeral

Actor and director who appeared in Father Ted remembered as lovable curmudgeon

The actor and director Pat Laffan was remembered as a lovable, gruff curmudgeon during his funeral Mass in Dublin on Tuesday.

Laffan was a man who could be "impatient, intolerant and not always polite", according to his friend Michael James Ford, but was someone whose company was cherished, just as much as his professionalism was admired.

The funeral, attended by some 600 extended family members, friends and individuals from the theatre world, was notable for the lengthy and fond reminiscences by colleagues and neighbours, and the quality of music played.

A string quartet (Bronagh FitzGerald and Carol Quigley on violin, Cliona O'Riordan on viola, and Anne Murnaghan on cello) played Adagio for Strings, Opus 11 (Barber) as Laffan's simple coffin, made from the foliage of water hyacinths and dressed with a spray of lilies and roses, entered St Michael's Church in Dún Laoghaire.


Laffan died last Thursday aged 79. He was best known for playing Pat Mustard, the randy milkman in Father Ted, and the equally randy Georgie Burgess in The Snapper. He was predeceased by his wife Eileen.

But between these popular roles, there was a lifetime's acting in some 40 films and 30 television roles, as well as directing, much of it associated with the Abbey and Peacock theatres. Chief celebrant Fr Paul Kenny said Laffan had "a tremendous career spanning generations" and he noted that he feared his own inadequacies in delivering a homily for a man who had played six priests and two bishops during his acting career.

Actors became part of the lives of others, said Fr Kenny, but those who were gone from us had only gone out of sight. He took his cue from Dún Laoghaire harbour down the bottom of Marine Road.

“The ship and its passengers that goes over the horizon has not ceased to exist,” he said, just because we can no longer see it. “Those who die have gone no further than God.”

Fellow Father Ted actor Mark O’Regan said Laffan was a “wise chieftain” to the tribe of actors. He said he loved “holding court” and smoking Gauloises – “sans filter”, a reference to a once fashionable type of French cigarette.

“Being in his company was like being in a Beckett play with a sprinkling of Flann O’Brien thrown in,” he said. “We will all miss that fierce intelligence.”

‘Fierce passion’

Clive Geraghty, the actor and Abbey artistic director, recalled how a day's work with Laffan often began with his pronouncing that he was "weak as a dog" before his "fierce passion and talent" took over.

Neighbour and actor Jill Doyle recalled how on meeting Laffan, he might describe himself as feeling "lousy" or "dreadful" or just "marginally okay" before "chat would ensue". As neighbours, they had had "the best of craic" with a "unique and wonderful character".

The author and documentary maker Deirdre Mulrooney recalled Laffan as a man passionately interested in history and a collector of first-edition books – a man who was also "always open to the present moment".

“He had an immense time and respect for women in Irish theatre,” she said.

The orchestrator of the eulogies, Michael James Ford, noted that Laffan had “legendry gruffness” and was also the first president of the Theatrical Cavaliers Cricket Club. Members provided a guard of honour.

Actor Stephen Brennan recalled being with Laffan during his last hours in St Vincent's hospital. He said these were peppered by "whole-hearted belly laughs" and nips of Hennessy from a brandy flask, which Laffan said "clears the mouth".

“I reflected how happy he was, the old grouse,” said Brennan. “Pat appeared without a care in the world or, dare I say it, content.”

He said Laffan bequeathed “a trail of funny stories, left like confetti in his wake”.

Actor Garrett Keogh read from a poem he wrote Laffan, In Good Humour and Bad, in 2002 but quoted also from a gloomy but witty haiku written by Laffan himself. It went: Black, black, black Am I to expect another attack Out of the blue?

To sustained applause, Laffan’s coffin was carried from the church, past his guard of honour and away to Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times