Dermot Morgan

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Dermot Morgan
Morgan in February 1993
Born(1952-03-31)31 March 1952
Dublin, Ireland
Died28 February 1998(1998-02-28) (aged 45)
Resting placeDeans Grange Cemetery
Occupation(s)Comedian, actor
Years active1979–1998
SpouseSusanne Garmatz
PartnerFiona Clarke

Dermot John Morgan (31 March 1952 – 28 February 1998) was an Irish comedian and actor, best known for his role as Father Ted Crilly on the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted.

Early life[edit]

Morgan was born in Dublin, the son of Hilda "Holly" (née Stokes) and artist and sculptor Donnchadh Morgan. His father died young of an aneurysm, leaving Holly with four children: Dermot, Paul, Denise, and Ruth, the last of whom died in childhood.[1] Morgan was educated at Oatlands College in Stillorgan and University College Dublin (UCD), where he studied English literature and philosophy. During his time there, he honed his comic skills; he also fronted a country and Irish band named Big Gom and the Imbeciles, a kind of 'tribute' act to Big Tom and The Mainliners, a major Irish band of the era.


Father Trendy and The Live Mike[edit]

Morgan made his debut in the media on the Morning Ireland radio show produced by Gene Martin, whose sister Ella was the mother of one of Morgan's friends. It was through this contact that Morgan made the break into radio and eventually television.

Morgan came to prominence as part of the team behind the highly successful RTÉ television show The Live Mike, presented by Mike Murphy. Between 1979 and 1982 Morgan played a range of comic characters who appeared between segments of the show. Morgan lampooned the rampant Modernism within the Post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church in Ireland by creating Father Trendy, a wishy-washy, trying-to-be-cool hippie-priest (modelled after Father Brian D'Arcy). Father Trendy always wore an Elvis Presley-style haircut and sometimes a leather jacket. He was also given to drawing ludicrous parallels between religion and secularism in two-minute 'sermons' to the camera. Morgan also satirised extreme nationalist "Little Irelanders", by playing an irate and bigoted GAA member who waved his hurley around while verbally attacking his pet hates.

At the height of The Troubles, Morgan also lampooned both the Wolfe Tones and the clichés of Irish rebel songs, which he said: "always have lots of blood and guts and fire and thunder in them". He then sang his own parody of Thomas Osborne Davis' iconic song "A Nation Once Again", about the martyrdom of Fido, a dog who saves his IRA master by eating a hand grenade during a search of the house by the Black and Tans during the Irish War of Independence. When Fido farts and the grenade accidentally detonates, the Black and Tans comment that "'Scuse me mate, was that something your dog ate?" The song climaxed with the words: "I hope that I shall live to see Fido an Alsatian once again."[2]

As a singer: Mr Eastwood[edit]

Morgan released a comedy single, "Thank You Very Very Much, Mr. Eastwood", in December 1985.[3] It was a take on the fawning praise that internationally successful Irish boxer Barry McGuigan gave his manager, Barney Eastwood, at the end of successive bouts. The single 'featured' lines by McGuigan, Ronald Reagan, Bob Geldof and Pope John Paul II,[4] and was the Christmas number one in the Irish singles chart in 1985.[5]

Scrap Saturday[edit]

Morgan's biggest Irish broadcasting success occurred in the late 1980s on the Saturday morning radio comedy show Scrap Saturday,[3] in which Morgan, co-scriptwriter Gerard Stembridge, Owen Roe and Pauline McLynn mocked Ireland's political, business and media establishment. The show's treatment of the relationship between the ever-controversial Taoiseach Charles Haughey and his press secretary PJ Mara proved particularly popular, with Haughey's dismissive attitude towards Mara and the latter's adoring and grovelling attitude towards his boss winning critical praise.

Morgan pilloried Haughey's propensity for claiming a family connection to almost every part of Ireland he visited by referring to a famous advertisement for Harp lager, which played on the image of someone returning home and seeking friends.

The Haughey/Mara "double act" became the star turn in a series that mocked both sides of the political divide, from Haughey and his advisors to opposition Fine Gael TD Michael Noonan as Limerick disk jockey "Morning Noon'an Night". When RTÉ axed the show in the early 1990s a national outcry ensued. Morgan lashed the decision, calling it "a shameless act of broadcasting cowardice and political subservience".[citation needed] An RTÉ spokesman said: "The show is not being axed. It's just not being continued!"[citation needed]

In 1991, Morgan received a Jacob's Award for his contribution to Scrap Saturday from the Irish national newspaper radio critics.

Father Ted[edit]

Already a celebrity in Ireland, Morgan got his big break in Britain with Channel 4's Irish sitcom Father Ted, which ran for three series from 1995 to 1998. Writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews auditioned many actors for the title role, but Morgan's enthusiasm won him the part. Father Ted focuses on the misadventures of three morally dubious Irish Catholic priests, whose transgressions have caused them to be exiled to the fictional Craggy Island, off the west coast of Ireland.

BAFTA Award[edit]

In 1996, Father Ted won a BAFTA award for Best Comedy. The same year Morgan also won a British Comedy Award for Top TV Comedy Actor, and McLynn was awarded Top TV Comedy Actress. In 1999, Father Ted won a second BAFTA for Best Comedy, with Morgan being awarded Best Comedy Performance posthumously.

Unreleased works[edit]

Morgan said in an interview with Gay Byrne on The Late Late Show in 1996 that he was writing a screenplay titled Miracle of the Magyars, based on a real-life incident in the 1950s when the Archbishop of Dublin forbade Catholics from attending a football match between the Republic of Ireland and Yugoslavia on religious and spiritual grounds. Yugoslavia won the match 4–1. Morgan planned to use Hungary as the opposing side to the Republic of Ireland – hence the title. At the time of his death in 1998, he had completed the screenplay but the film never was made.

Morgan's first project after Father Ted was to be Re-united, a sitcom about two retired footballers sharing a flat in London. According to former manager John Fischer, Morgan was writing the script for the programme and planned to take the part of "an Eamon Dunphy-type who had gone on to work in journalism, but had ended up living with an old football pal". Mel Smith was in talks for the role of the friend.[6]

Morgan had been commissioned to write a drama series for the BBC.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Morgan was married to Susanne Garmatz, a German woman, with whom he had two sons.[8] He later began a relationship with Fiona Clarke, with whom he had another son.[8]

Although he had been raised as a Catholic and had briefly considered becoming a priest during childhood, Morgan became an atheist in his later life, and he was critical of the Catholic Church.[9][10] He supported Irish football club UCD FC and English football club Chelsea FC.


The "Joker's Chair", a memorial to Morgan in Merrion Square, Dublin
Morgan's Grave in Deansgrange Cemetery, south County Dublin

Before location filming on the third and final series of Father Ted, Morgan underwent a mandatory medical examination in which he was found to have high blood pressure, and was prescribed medication.[11] On 28 February 1998, one day after recording the series' final episode, Morgan suffered a heart attack while hosting a dinner party at his home in London's Hounslow area, at which the Scottish musician Jim Diamond was present.[7] He was rushed to hospital, but died soon afterward. He was 45 years old.[12]

Morgan's sister Denise said "He wasn't feeling great at the end of the meal and I went to the bedroom with him. He had a heart attack, and I didn't recognise it. From my limited training in first aid, I wasn't sure exactly what was happening. The symptoms didn't match what the books said. I said to him 'I think you are okay' and we went back to the table. He apologised for having left the room and the next thing he just collapsed. We tried to resuscitate him but it didn't work."[13] Father Ted co-star Frank Kelly said "Dermot's mind was mercurial. I think he was a kind of comedic meteor. He burned himself out."[14]

Despite Morgan's atheism, a Catholic requiem Mass was offered for him at St Therese's Church in the South Dublin suburb of Mount Merrion. The Mass was attended by Irish President Mary McAleese, her predecessor Mary Robinson, and many of the Irish political and religious leaders who had been the targets of his satire in Scrap Saturday. His body was cremated at Glasnevin Cemetery, and his ashes were buried in the family plot at Deans Grange Cemetery.[15]


In December 2013, the documentary Dermot Morgan – Fearless Funnyman aired on RTÉ One.[16]

A wax statue of Morgan was erected by his sons in the national wax museum in Dublin.[17]






  1. ^ Bunbury, Turtle. "A History of the Morgan Family - Father Ted's Forebears". Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  2. ^ An Alsatian Once Again
  3. ^ a b Hayward, Anthony (2 March 1998). "Obituary: Dermot Morgan". The Independent. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  4. ^ New Island Books, 1998.
  5. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know".
  6. ^ Sweeney, Ken (23 July 2013). "Mel and Dermot had show lined up". Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  7. ^ a b Egan, Barry (1 June 2008). "The day the laughter died". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 9 July 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  8. ^ a b "My dad was Fr Ted (and I still miss him terribly)". Irish Independent. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  9. ^ "Craggy Island would soak up the irony. From beyond the grave, Dermot Morgan, a staunch atheist who savaged the Catholic Church, is delivering a final kick to the priests who gave him a hero's send-off." Rory Carroll, 'Catholic critic Father Ted still causing controversy', The Guardian, April 23, 1998, Pg. 4.
  10. ^ "Father Ted is dead". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  11. ^ De-Burca, Demelza (27 December 2013). "Tragic Dermot Morgan was under serious stress when he died aged 45 says Fr Ted star Frank Kelly". irishmirror. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  12. ^ Murdoch, Alan (2 March 1998). "Ireland mourns comic talent as 'Father Ted' actor dies, aged 45". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
  14. ^ MacMillan, Jane (2 March 1998). "Father Ted star Dermot Morgan dies". Electronic Telegraph. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  15. ^ "Dermot Morgan Tribute" Archived 17 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved March 2011.
  16. ^ "DERMOT MORGAN – FEARLESS FUNNYMAN". RTÉ. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Father Ted's room". National Wax Museum Plus. 18 March 2020. Retrieved 5 December 2021.

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