Life of actor Peter Caffrey recalled at funeral Mass

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Actor Paul Bennett said yesterday that what people remembered most about Peter Caffrey was "the laughing, the twinkle in the eye, the wit, devilment at parties . . . there were always parties when Peter was around".

He was speaking in St Joseph's Church Terenure, Dublin, yesterday after the funeral Mass for fellow actor Peter Caffrey, who died at Shrewsbury in England on New Year's Day.

He remembered saying to Sheila, Peter Caffrey's sister, on hearing of the death, that "Peter was dealt a lousy hand, which he played beautifully and bravely in the last few years, as he went from hospital to hospital and to rehab in London and Dublin".

"Not once did he complain. He really had grace under pressure."

Peter "supported a lot of young actors. I know I wouldn't have gone on stage but for him. He had a first-class brain. He could do the crossword in 10 minutes flat and read a book a day."

Quoting from Romeo and Juliet, he concluded, "Give me my Romeo; and, when I shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night/And pay no worship to the garish sun."

Before the Mass, parish priest Fr Frank McDonnell said Peter Caffrey had attended St Joseph's primary school nearby in the church grounds. He then went to St Mary's in Rathmines and from there to the Divine Word seminary at Donamon in Roscommon for a period. Then he went to UCD and became involved with Dramsoc, setting up the Metamorphosis theatre company in the 1970s, based at the Project in Dublin.

Fr McDonnell recalled the late actor had parts in the Riordans, Bracken, and Ballykissangel in the 1980s and 1990s before becoming seriously ill (with cancer) in 1992. Then in 2000 he had "a massive stroke," he said. Peter's role as a publican in the 2005 film Sweet Dancerwas his last professional part, the priest said. "He never gave up," he added.

Readings during the Mass were by family members, who also conveyed the offertory gifts. When the Mass ended actor Susan Slott read from Khalil Gibran and fellow actor Garrett Keogh read a poem.

Chief mourners were Peter Caffrey's sisters Linda, Carol and Sheila, brothers-in-law Mike, Brian, and Joe, sister-in-law Trish, as well as nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents Tommy and Muriel, and his brother Dave.

The large congregation at the Mass was made up mainly of actors, including Niall Toibin, Johnny Murphy, Barry McGovern, Stephen Brennan, Bryan Murray, Geraldine Plunkett, author and artist Mannix Flynn, actors Joe Savino, Mark Lambert and Jonathan White, journalist Caroline Erskine, author and director Peter Sheridan, actors Peter Hanly and Stephen Tomkinson, author and former theatre critic Michael Sheridan, actor Noel O'Donovan, archivist Bairbre Ní Fhloinn, and actor Vincent McCabe. Cremation was at Mount Jerome.

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