A former schoolteacher from Dublin, Dermot Morgan broke into comic acting in the late 1970s. He became a household name in the late 1980s for his work on the RTÉ radio show Scrap Saturday, which satirised the Irish politics of the day on either side of the political spectrum as well as business and church leaders and policy. When the show was cancelled in 1991, there were accusations of political interference.
Morgan would score the role of Father Ted Crilly in the Channel Four sitcom Father Ted in 1995. The sitcom lasted three series and won multiple BAFTA Awards. One of three Catholic priests exiled to an eccentric parish on an island off the west coast of Ireland, Father Crilly with his weakness for money and great desire for fame headlined a cast that included many Irish comedians throughout its run. The series became a cultural touchstone in Ireland and beyond.
Right after the final episode of the last series wrapped production, Morgan and his family hosted a dinner party at his London home. But at this party, almost 24-hours after the final scene was shot, Dermot Morgan suffered a massive heart attack and died on 28 February 1998, at age 45. At his funeral mass, two Irish Presidents, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, were in attendance as well as other political and church leaders, who were often the targets of his satire.
His memorial is the Joker’s Chair in Merrion Square, Dublin. The joker, or jester, is the entertainer who was able to criticize the royal court. Ireland’s first alternative comedian has left a legacy in the country, with his memorial just a walk away from the powers he would satirise.
Featured Image | Dermot Morgan Memorial, Joker’s Chair | Merrion Square, Dublin