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FATHER Ted funnyman Dermot Morgan apologised to guests and tried to rejoin his dinner party seconds after suffering a massive heart attack.

But as he went to go back to his seat he collapsed and died in front of sister Denise and partner Fiona Clarke.

The popular comedian who died five years ago was celebrating the end of the third series of C4 comedy classic Father Ted when he died suddenly.

Said Denise: "He wasn't feeling great at the end of the meal and I went to the bedroom with him. He had had a heart-attack and I didn't recognise it.

"From my limited training in first aid I wasn't sure exactly what was happening," said Denise.

"The symptoms didn't match what the books said. I said to him. 'I think you are OK' and we went back to the table. He apologised for having left the room and the next thing he just collapsed.

"We tried to resuscitate him but it didn't work. He had had a massive heart attack."

In a television tribute to the actor Denise tells how Morgan told her he had finally cracked fame the night before he died.

Following a wrap party for what was to be the last series of Father Ted, the siblings were heading home when the actor admitted he had made it.

"We were headed off home and we were in the big limo and I was looking out the window and everywhere there were enormous big posters of Father Ted, advertising it. I was saying, you know, 'hey, he's my brother'."

"And he turned to me and said, "Do you know what? I think I've finally cracked it."

The following evening Morgan and Fiona invited Denise and her husband and friend Jim Diamond and his wife for a 'family dinner'.

Morgan was in good form but following the meal complained that he wasn't feeling well.

Within minutes he was gone.

In The Real Father Ted, to be screened this week, Fiona tells how she fell for Morgan's outrageous antics after meeting him at a hockey match.

"He was funny and outrageous like nothing I'd ever met before. I didn't know anything about him and after a few dates I asked him what he did. He said he did a bit of this and a bit of that but I had never seen him on TV.

"Dermot was always working on ideas and making new proposals and trying stuff all the time.

"He loved meeting people that were his targets.

"Some of them hated it but Dermot always enjoyed it.

"In fact, the more awkward the better.

The comic who had a son Ben in 1993 with Fiona vowed to always be there for his youngest child.

"He felt it was really nice for him to have a baby at a later stage of his life," said Fiona.

"He was hoping to be there for the child. He had always tried to be there for his sons Don and Bobby but he knew that he had been caught up with himself and his career and neurosis.

"He was hoping to be a better dad for Ben - or a more present one."

Sons Bobby and Don, Morgan's sons with first wife Suzanne, say they remember their father as a friend.

Bobby said: "I can remember back to being about five or six and being at a friend's house.

"When I came home he was out in the garden with people and they were bizarrely playing cricket. There was always encouragement and inclusion there.

"When success came for him, he was slowly and slowly moving out of the house.

"I remember the day that I was told he was gone and I opened the door and ran out and cried. I was devastated."

Don said he always clicked with his dad but was very upset when his parents split.

"It seemed to me that I was more at an intimate level than other friends were with their parents. Bob and myself immediately clicked with my dad.

"I remember at the beginning of Kenny Live he wasn't home on that Saturday night, then it became weekends. Then it became clearer and clearer.

"By 1990 he wasn't in the house. I remember hearing once that it is a teenage prerogative to be obnoxious. I acted the bollocks towards him. Some things with hindsight I wish I hadn't done.

"He had his needs and I couldn't see what was happening was a relationship disintegrating."

The memorial to the star made by his close friend Shay Healy also reveals how Morgan went to Tanaiste Mary Harney to complain when Scrap Saturday, his legendary radio show, failed to return to RTE for a third series.

"We liked to be mentioned on Scap Saturday, not ignored. I don't think his comments were meant to hurt in a personal way. There was a lot of egos there at the time that he punctured.

Mary Harney said: "Dermot did discuss with me that political 'heads' as he called them had complained to RTE about it.

But I don't know about that. I wasn't aware of it at the time from political sources nor have I been made aware of it since."

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also contributes to the show to be screened on Tuesday night.

"I don't think Scrap Saturday could be replicated. I don't think another person could come along and take that up. Most political comedians are disastrous, I don't find them funny.

"But I certainly used to make sure I'd be out of bed to listen to Scrap Saturday."

Co-stars Ardal O'Hanlon, Pauline McLynn and Frank Kelly also describe their time with Morgan who died as his career was set to sky-rocket.

True Lives: The Real Father Ted will be screened on RTE One on Tuesday, May 13, at 10.10pm.


SAD LOSS: Dermot Morgan's death shocked comedy fans; BIGGEST SUCCESS: Dermot as Fr Ted; DEVASTATED: Partner Fiona is comforted during the funeral; SUCCESS AT LAST: Dermot and partner Fiona at the British Comedy Awards; WITNESS: Dermot's sister Denise
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 11, 2003

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