By Seán McCárthaigh
Irish Examiner
Friday, March 02, 2012

As befitted his long association with laughter, the funeral Mass of the late Hal Roach was coloured with humour.

The large crowd which gathered in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, Co Dublin, yesterday heard the 84-year-old performer who died on Tuesday described by his colleague and friend Brendan Grace as “the greatest comedian Ireland ever produced”.

In a tribute peppered with jokes and anecdotes, the comedian said he had been inspired to enter the profession by his late friend.

Grace said he was privileged to have learnt his craft from someone he compared to comedy greats Jackie Gleeson, Bob Hope and Jack Benny.

He said Mr Roach’s timing, material and diction were always “impeccable”.

Grace also mimicked his friend’s voice and catchphrase which he claimed he could hear while trying to compose the eulogy the previous evening.

“I heard him saying ‘why don’t you write it down. You made a career out of writing down my material’,” laughed Grace.

At the start of the ceremony Mr Roach’s red scarf, bow tie, hat, a toy from his grandchild, and a copy of the Bible were placed on the coffin as symbols of his life.

In his homily, Fr Dermot McCarthy said showbiz was in the comedian’s DNA. He praised Mr Roach and fellow comedian, Frank Carson, who also died recently as “two artists whose memory brought smiles to every household in Ireland”.

He joked Roach did not want a long panegyric, as he defined it as “one man lying in a coffin and another lying on the altar”. “Write it down — it’s a good one,” smiled the priest.

He recalled how the comedian made a gift of his smile and a “specialised ministry for mirth which was so vital for this world”. ”

The congregation burst into applause as Fr McCarthy said the country owed the Roach family a large debt as they had paid a price for his fame.

He also praised Mr Roach’s work for charity and recalled how he performed each Christmas Day at a dinner for homeless people in Dublin as he himself had been homeless when he first moved from his native Waterford to the city.

Chief mourners were Roach’s sons, John and Shane; daughters, Sandra, Gerry and Gráinne and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary, was too ill to attend the ceremony.

Others in attendance included comedians Frank Kelly, Des Keogh, Sil Fox and Noel V Ginnity. as well as theatre producer Noel Pearson; tailor Louis Copeland and former managing director of Jury’s Hotels, Peter Malone.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the President Michael D Higgins were represented by their aides-de-camp.

Mr Roach’s coffin was carried out of the church to the air of Bring Me Sunshine and an impromptu round of applause before being brought for burial to Glencullen Cemetery.