T P McKenna

Last updated 09 January 2020

T P McKenna (1929-2011)
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Thomas Patrick McKenna

Born: Saturday 7th September 1929
Died: Sunday 13th February 2011 (age: 81)


T P McKenna as an Irish actor who worked on stage, in film and television in Ireland and the UK from the 1950s.

McKenna was born in Mullagh, County Cavan. During the 1960s and 1970s he appeared regularly in popular television dramas, including The Avengers (1964, 1965, 1968), Danger Man (1965),The Saint (1966, 1968), Adam Adamant Lives! (1967), Jason King (1972), The Sweeney (1975), Blake's 7 (1978), Minder (1984) and in the Doctor Who serial The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.

He played Richmond in the Thames Television series Callan (1972) and made ten appearances in Crown Court (1974–1982), mainly as barrister Patrick Canty, while also appearing in the popular ATV anthology drama series Love Story (1965-1968). He also featured prominently in other television dramas including The Duchess of Malfi (1972), The Changeling (1974), Holocaust (1978), The Manions of America (1981), To The Lighthouse (1982), Bleak House (1985), Strong Medicine (1986), Jack the Ripper (1988),Shoot to Kill (1990), Scarlet and Black (1993) and the final episode of Inspector Morse (2000).

He had prominent film roles in Ulysses (1967), Sam Peckinpah's film Straw Dogs (1971) where he appeared alongside Dustin Hoffman and A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man (1977). Other film credis include The Charge of the Light Brigade (1967), Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), Perfect Friday (1970), Villain (1971), All Creatures Great and Small (1975), Mehmed My Hawk (1988), Pascali's Island (1988), The American (1998), Monarch (2000) and The Libertine (2004).

He narrated the Emmy-winning documentary Is There One Who Understands Me (RTE, 1982).

On stage he appeared with leading theatre companies, including the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre Company. He was a member of the Abbey Theatre company from 1953 to 1962 performing in over seventy roles. In 1967 he was made an honorary life member of the company along with Cyril Cusack, Siobhan McKenna and Jack McGowran.

He joined Stuart Burge's company at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1968 playing Trigorin in The Seagull and Sir Joseph Surface in Sheridan's School For Scandal, both directed by Jonathan Miller. In 1969 he created the role of Fitzpatrick in David Storey's 'The Contractor' directed by Lindsay Anderson at the Royal Court Theatre, London. The production later transferred to the Fortune Theatre and ran for over a year. In 1973 to took on the role of Andrew Wyke opposite his friend Donally Donnelly in the Irish premiere of Peter Shaffer's 'Sleuth'. The production played to acclaim in both Dublin and Cork and it broke the box office record for the Olympia Theatre.

Later that year he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and took over the role of Roberts Hands in James Joyce's only play, 'Exiles' directed by Harold Pinter. In the same season he also appeared in a rare staging of Jean Genet's 'The Balcony' directed by Terry Hands.

He returned to the RSC in 1976 for Shaw's 'The Devil's Disciple' directed by Jack Gold in a production to mark the American bicentennial celebrations as the revolutionary pastor Revd. Anderson.

In the late 1980s and 1990s he returned to the Dublin stage when he was invited by director Michael Colgan to join the Gate Theatre on a number of occasions including admired productions of Uncle VanyaThe Cherry Orchard and No Mans Land. It was there he created the role of Dr. Rice in Brian Friel's drama, Molly Sweeney, and again at London's Almeida Theatre. Other Friel productions he appeared in were The Communication Cord (Hampstead Theatre, 1984) and The Aristocrats (2004) at the RNT in his final stage appearance.

He directed on occasion, and had productions of J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World (Nottingham Playhouse, 1968), Thomas Kilroy's The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche (Abbey Theatre, 1973) and Seán O'Casey'sThe Shadow of A Gunman (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 1980) to his credit. McKenna took the role of Phonsie Doherty in Christopher FitzSimon's Radio 4 comedy series, Ballylennon, and later appeared opposite David Threlfall in the radio drama Baldi.

He died at the Royal Free Hospital in London and is laid to rest alongside his wife, May, at Teampall Cheallaigh by the shores of Mullagh Lake in County Cavan.

Biography from the Wikipedia article, licensed under CC-BY-SA