Father Ted star Rynagh O'Grady dies suddenly aged 67

Father Ted actress Rynagh O’Grady, who memorably played Craggy Island shop owner Mary O’Leary on the show, has died aged 67.

The death of the Irish actress, who appeared in the Bafta-winning classic from 1995 to 1998, was announced today in a statement by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

Rynagh was also known for playing Bernie’s mother in The Commitments and had roles in The Bill and Tom Cruise blockbuster Far and Away.

But her part in Father Ted, where she would often act opposite the late Dermot Morgan, had audiences in tears of laughter. 

The running joke would see her character Mary abusively arguing with her husband, before pretending to be the agreeable lovable couple on sight of the titular priest.

One of her co-stars Pauline McLynn – who played Mrs Doyle – simply posted two words online ‘So sad x’.

Tragic loss: The death of the Irish actress, best known for her role as Craggy Island shop owner Mary O'Leary from 1995-1998, was announced in a statement by the Abbey Theatre

Tragic loss: The death of the Irish actress, best known for her role as Craggy Island shop owner Mary O’Leary from 1995-1998, was announced in a statement by the Abbey Theatre

Iconic role: Although Rynagh became a nationally known name with her role in Father Ted, she was a star of the Irish theatre scene

Iconic role: Although Rynagh became a nationally known name with her role in Father Ted, she was a star of the Irish theatre scene

RIP: Father Ted star Rynagh O'Grady has died aged 67 (above as Mary O'Leary in the show alongside Patrick Drury as John O'Leary)

RIP: Father Ted star Rynagh O’Grady has died aged 67 (above as Mary O’Leary in the show alongside Patrick Drury as John O’Leary)

The statement from the Abbey Theatre said: ‘We were deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of our beloved friend and colleague Rynagh O’Grady. We are thinking of her family and all who loved her.

‘Rynagh trained in the Abbey School of Acting and first appeared on our stages in 1969. Notable productions included Donal O’Kelly’s Mamie Sighs in 1990 and more recently in Deirdre Kinahan’s The Unmanageable Sisters.

Director of the Abbey Theatre, Graham McLaren said: ‘Rynagh O Grady, Her grace, Her talent, Her humour, Her integrity, Her patience

‘I’d sneak into the back row of the Abbey to watch her hush a hysterical audience with a look, then lead them through a speech full of heart, humanity & justice

‘Irish theatre got a lot darker today.

‘We were honoured to have Rynagh reading for the Abbey stage as part of Dear Ireland in August 2020. She will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, dear Rynagh.’ 

Fellow Abbey Theatre actor Bill Murphy also tweeted a tribute to his friend and colleague, writing: ‘So sorry to hear of the passing of our trojan woman and friend actor Rynagh O Grady.

‘We served together on equity and more recently worked together. Thunderous ovations to you Rynagh. You made your mark.’

Rynagh was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1954 and learned her craft at the Abbey School of Acting.

Acclaimed: In 2017 Rynagh worked on comedy Supervized which followed a group of former internationally renowned superheroes who are living out their twilight years in a retirement home in Ireland

Acclaimed: In 2017 Rynagh worked on comedy Supervized which followed a group of former internationally renowned superheroes who are living out their twilight years in a retirement home in Ireland

Tribute: Fellow Abbey Theatre actor Bill Murphy also tweeted a tribute to his friend and colleague, writing: 'So sorry to hear of the passing of our trojan woman and friend actor Rynagh O Grady'

Tribute: Fellow Abbey Theatre actor Bill Murphy also tweeted a tribute to his friend and colleague, writing: ‘So sorry to hear of the passing of our trojan woman and friend actor Rynagh O Grady’

Tribute: Director of the Abbey Theatre,Graham McLaren, paid an emotional tribute to his late friend

Tribute: Director of the Abbey Theatre,Graham McLaren, paid an emotional tribute to his late friend

Rynagh appeared in numerous theatre productions at Ireland’s National Theatre and carved out a stellar reputation with her directorial and writing skills.

She was married to musician Eamon Murray – with whom she created four-part documentary for RTE FM3: The Sound Of Volcanoes in 1998.

The documentary saw the couple journey from Mexico to Ecuador exploring the role and development of music in the lives of the people of Central America.  

She shot to national fame with her role on Father Ted as shop owner Mary, who frequently had explosive spats with husband John (Patrick Drury) before putting on a united front for customers. 

She said of the role on her website: ‘I was thrilled to play Mary O’Leary in Father Ted. 

‘Declan Lowney is one of the nicest directors I have worked with. Arthur and Graham wrote fantastic wacky scripts with this undercurrent of shocking truth. 

‘We recorded it in front of a live audience in London, which was good as it gave us something to bounce off.’   

Rynagh had started to write and direct in the 1990s – she founded Stray Dog Productions which produced theatre, television and films. 

In 1991,  RTÉ commissioned her to write and direct Born Bolshie, a documentary on Chloe Gibson: a woman who made a major contribution to the development of television drama in Ireland.

RIP: Friends and fans of the star took to Twitter to pay tribute in the wake of her passing

RIP: Friends and fans of the star took to Twitter to pay tribute in the wake of her passing 

The documentary scooped Rynagh a Jacobs Award in 1992 – the Irish equivalent of a BAFTA.   

She said: ‘This was a great experience as I got to interview lots of major players in both the Irish and British TV world. I had a fantastic crew, with my good friend Loesje at the helm and the ingenious late Pat Hayes on sound.’

Her theatre directing credits include 1993’s  Statements after an Arrest at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin and 2003’s Keep Coming Back, which she also wrote and performed in. 

Rynagh made a documentary in Cuba in 2004 on the lives of the artistic community, which was broadcast by SoundRadio UK.

In 2006 she once again joined forces with husband Eamon for a one person show, Voice In The Wind, which toured worldwide.

Then in 2006 Rynagh toured the world with a one-person show with music played by Eamon Murray, Voices in the Wind directed by John Olohan.   

As well as Father Ted, notable roles include that of Olive in the 1992 Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman-helmed movie, Far and Away, Bernie’s mother in 1991’s The Commitments and Mrs Coyle in the 2005 film Breakfast On Pluto, which starred Cillian Murphy.   

In 2017 Rynagh worked on comedy Supervized which followed a group of former internationally renowned superheroes who are living out their twilight years in a retirement home in Ireland.

source: dailymail.co.uk