Legendary Dublin comedian and entertainer Brendan Grace has died, aged 68.
Grace passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by his loving family, his management team confirmed to Independent.ie.
Celebrity friends and family rallied around the much-loved comic in recent weeks after it emerged he was battling pneumonia and lung cancer.
Famous for his schoolboy character Bottler, Grace lives in West Palm Beach in Florida with his wife Eileen but was working in Ireland when his health took a turn.
Brendan Grace began his career as a singer, but comedy took over and he became renowned for his wit and intelligence.
Born in the Liberties, Mr Grace is based in America with his wife Eileen and their family, but regularly returns to Ireland for shows.
Mr Grace also starred in Father Ted, a role that made him famous across the world.
Tom Kelly, Grace’s manager for 27 years, speaking on Virgin Media One’s Ireland:AM programme on Thursday morning, said the entertainer’s death is a great loss to Ireland.
“Although he was aware of the outcome himself in the last few days when the cancer was diagnosed, it’s a great shock to everybody,” he said.
“He was very weak, he didn’t wish to have chemo or anything like that, and the inevitable happened.
“He was one of the greats in modern entertaining, it’s a huge loss.”
Fellow comedian and friend June Rogers also expressed her sadness at his death.
“I’m shocked this morning he was such a wonderful comic, I was a big fan of his,” she said.
“He’s a very kind man and he was very kind to me when I started out.
“He was a wonderful family man, Eileen and himself were very much together.
“It wasn’t just his comedy, but his voice too, he was an all-rounder.
“He had a fantastic career and he will be sorely missed by everyone in Ireland,” she added.
Mrs Brown’s Boys star Brendan O’Carroll also paid tribute to the comedian.
“So sad at the passing of a great comedy legend, husband and father,” he wrote on Twitter.
“He opened doors for so many of us and leaves a legacy of love and laughter that will echo through this land and we will all mourn his passing.
“Rest peacefully Bottler you’ve earned it.”
Writing on Instagram, radio and TV presenter Ryan Tubridy wrote; “An era ends with the sad passing of Brendan Grace, an Irish icon. From Bottle to Fr Ted and a Late Late Show regular, he never failed to entertain. Condolences to his family, RIP.”
Commenting on Brendan Grace’s passing, RTÉ Director-General Dee Forbes said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Brendan Grace.
“Brendan was one of Ireland’s original funny men, and one of Irish comedy’s true pioneers. While there are now many Irish comedians who are household names, Brendan emerged as a talent during an era when there were very few established Irish comedians.
“Through his live shows, his live recordings, The Brendan Grace Show and many memorable guest appearances on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, Brendan established himself in the hearts of generations of fans, not just in Ireland, but all over the world.
“Importantly, he also paved the way for many of the wonderful comedians this country has produced over the last twenty years or so and leaves behind a legacy he and his family can be proud of. He will be deeply missed.
“My thoughts and those of his many friends and fans across RTÉ are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
Mr Grace’s son-in-law, Frank Gillespie, spoke to RTE Radio One’s Liveline show earlier this month expressing the family’s gratitude for the public’s support.
“The amount of cards, phone calls, people enquiring – we’re just inundated with everything. Brendan is battling away and he just wanted to let his fans know he loves them all out there, he knows everything that’s going on and he’s received all the wishes,” Mr Gillespie said.
“From every part of the world, people are calling us and sending us wishes so we just wanted to get back and say a big thank you to everybody.
“He’s battling away – we’re fighting to get out there again, to do his gigs and to keep going. We’re thinking, this is just a little set back and we’ll keep everybody informed.
“We want to thank all of the doctors and nurses and everybody that’s taking care of Brendan. He’s been well minded, especially by his wife Eileen.
“We’re all around him, he still has the humour and he’s making us laugh. We’ll have to get him up out of that bed and get out there again. “We’re thanking everybody for the well wishes,” Mr Gillespie added.
Celebrity friends also spoke to Independent.ie of their shock at the news of his diagnosis.
Paying tribute to her good friend, Twink said; “We’ve worked together, we’ve got twisted together, we’ve laughed so much.
“I love his devoted wife, she’s equally a lifelong friend of mine.
“I love Brendan’s talent, I love Brendan. I’m sending strength and love and good wishes, as is the whole country.”
Actress June Rogers said: “I was so shocked when I found out, he’s such a lovely man. I’m so fond of him.”
“I only found out last night, and the person who told me had just heard it and didn’t know anything else about it,” Ms Rogers told Independent.ie. “He’s such a genuine person, he never had a bad word to say about anybody.”
“Of course, I send well wishes – I didn’t know if I should text his phone or not as I don’t know what to do in these situations, it can be quite difficult as I don’t want to disturb the family,” Ms Rogers added.
“My thoughts are with him, he’s absolutely an Irish treasure and he’s been very kind to me. He’s a wonderful man.”
Actor Joe Rooney, who worked alongside Mr Grace on television comedy ‘Killinaskully’, said: “He is a brilliant comedy actor – underused really.”
“He called me a couple of times. I was on the ‘Marian Finucane Show’ years ago and I was playing clips that had inspired me. One of them was of him doing ‘Bottler’ which was released when I was a kid.”
RTÉ are repeating tonight their 2018 documentary which marked Brendan Grace’s 50th year in the entertainment business.
‘Brendan Grace – Funny Man’ was directed by Brian Reddin and looked back over the brilliant career of Ireland’s favourite funny man.
The documentary will be repeated at 10.15pm on RTÉ One tonight.
A book of condolences will be available for the public to sign and leave messages at Mansion House in Dawson Street today from 12pm to 5pm and tomorrow from 10am to 5pm.