FATHER Ted star Brendan Grace has died aged 68 after a battle with lung cancer.
The singer and comic, who played obnoxious Father Fintan Stack in the hit TV show, passed away this morning.
He was forced to cancel his scheduled summer tour of Ireland and the UK tour last week after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Grace, who has been on the comedy circuit for 40 years, was given the diagnosis while being treated for pneumonia.
The funnyman and dad-of-four was taken to hospital in Ireland for treatment but he is said to have died "peacefully" in the early hours of the morning.
He lived with wife of 45 years Eilee in Florida but the comic regularly toured Ireland and the UK.
Grace had four children – Melanie, Amanda, Brendan and Bradley, who is a member of US punk band Poison The Well.
Mr Brown's Boys creator Brendan O'Carroll has led tributes to Grace, describing him as a "comedy legend".
He said: "So sad at the passing of a great comedy legend, husband and father Brendan Grace.
"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."
Family friend Ciarán Ó Raghallaigh added: "He fought with all his might and had family close by all the way to the end, laughing and reminiscing, but Brendan Grace finally succumbed this morning.
"Rest in Peace Bottler."
RISE TO STARDOM
Grace began his career as a singer – recording the original version of the hit song title Combine Harvester in 1975 before The Wurzels made their own version a year later.
He also toured the world and performed with stars including Frank Sinatra.
Grace then made the cross-over into comedy and became well-known for his character Bottler – a cheeky schoolboy complete with cap, blazer and shorts.
In 1996, he appeared as Father Stack in Father Ted – an obnoxious priest who torments the key characters with loud music and rowdy behaviour.
He had been suffering with ill-health for a number of years – and lost two toes to gangrene after being diagnosed with diabetes in 2009.
Last year, Dublin-born Grace revealed he suffered a stroke that left him looking like he was under the influence.
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But he admitted there was an “irony” to the situation — given that part of his act involves playing the role of a drunk.
His lung cancer diagnosis came just four months after the death of fellow Father Ted star Pat Laffan aged 79 in March.
Laffan had originally auditioned for the role of Father Stack but was instead cast as Lothario milkman Pat Mustard.
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