June 15, 2024

‘He was unique’ – warm tributes paid to late, great Kilkenny actor Dónal O’Brien

WARM tributes have been paid to the great Kilkenny actor and former Town Clerk Dónal O’Brien, who passed away on Saturday following a short illness.

Arguably the finest Kilkenny actor of his generation, Dónal O’Brien played a major role in the cultural life of the city for decades.

He was instrumental in setting up the Watergate Theatre, and his last major screen role was playing the lead in Hugh Leonard’s Da.

Fellow local actor Derek John Dooley was among the many who took to social media over the weekend to pay tribute to what he described as “one of my greatest stage heroes”.

He recalled: “I will never forget going to my first ever Watergate Theatre rehearsal in the coffee dock of the theatre. As I arrived at the top of the stairs and being spell bound that I was going to share the stage with Dónal and other Watergate greats! Felt very much out of my depth. But I couldn’t have got better encouragement from Dónal.

“Then I had the privilege of doing the panto with him for two years. What a shock for me in 2002 when I was told I was going to take over from Dónal as panto Dame. Again his encouragement was everything to me, but I had learned from the Master. In essence nobody could take over from Dónal. He was unique and that uniqueness will go down in Kilkenny stage history.

“When Dónal got inside a character he drew you into that person and made you feel that emotion in a very real way, whether It be sadness, love or probably his greatest gift, humour. It was in his humour on stage that he really enthralled people! With inch perfect timing he brought you to the edge of your seat and unceremoniously shoved you off it into a belly full of delirious laughter.

“Decades of Kilkenny audiences owe Dónal a huge debt of gratitude for lifting their spirits through his performances.”

Dónal’s friend Billy Holmes said: “So sad to hear of the death of Dónal O’Brien … a good friend and what an actor. May your gentle soul rest with the Lord.”

Dónal passed at St Vincent’s Hospital on Saturday following a short illness.

He is survived by children Deirdre, Barry, Donal Jnr, Muireann and Kathryn, brothers Liam, Deaglán, Tadhg and Finbarr, sisters Réidín and Gráinne, sons-in-law Brian and John, grandchildren Lilly, Anna and Oisín, extended family and many friends.

His remains will repose at Johnston’s Funeral Home today from 4.30pm with Funeral Prayers at 6pm followed by removal to St Canice’s Church.

Requiem Mass will take place at 11am tomorrow, with burial afterwards at Foulkstown Cemetery.

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