An obituary for the Liberties most famous builder

Dvid kelly with Sarah kavnagh at people of the year awards 2009 courtesy of Rehab

Actor David Kelly passed away on February 12th 2012, but his life began in the Liberties on the 11th of July 1929 , writes Mike Coleman.

Mr Kelly received his early education at Dublin’s Synge Street CBS Christian Brothers school and trained as an actor in the Abbey School of Acting. He began his acting career at just eight years of age in the Gaiety theatre.

He made his screen debut in John Pomeroy’s film “Dublin Nightmare” playing a small part but his first real break came when he appeared onstage in the original production of Brendan Behan’s “The Quare Fellow”.

Following this he received his first major role appearing in Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” in 1959 in the Abbey Theatre.

Mr Kelly also trained as a draughtsman, a calligrapher and learned watercolour art on the advice of his father, who urged him to have a career to fall back on. He spent his early years living and working in the Liberties while trying to make waves on the acting scene.

Despite the many big roles he has played,

David Kelly is probably most famous for his portrayal of O’Reilly the inept builder on “Fawlty Towers”where he played a builder who was hired by Basil to do some routine building work on the hotel in the episode “The Builders”, unfortunately  for O’Reilly and Basil the job does not go to plan and they both suffer at the hands of Mrs Fawlty.

Mr Kelly is quoted as saying, “I’ve been 52 to 53 years on stage and yet Fawlty Towers, those full nine minutes, make me recognised anywhere in the world”.

Mr Kelly has played many roles over the years and received critical acclaim for his performance as Grandpa Joe in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), a dark version of Roald Dahl’s book.

He won an ESB Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 for his contribution to Irish theatre and a similar honour from the Irish Film and Television Academy three years later.

David Kelly is survived by his wife Laurie and his children David and Miriam.


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