Saturday 17 June 2023

Fan Letter from Rich & E.

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In this extract from "My Daddy, the Actor: the Life and Times of T.P. McKenna," Stephen McKenna explores the spontaneous bond he made with one of the acting greats - Richard Burton.​

Friday 16 June 2023

A Masterclass in Villainy

In this extract from "My Daddy, the Actor: the Life and Times of T.P. McKenna," Stephen McKenna explores the unplanned but inevitable path that led to his father becoming one of British television's most distinguished and sinister villains


Saturday 16 April 2011


T.P. McKenna

 ~ 1929-2011 ~

"As an actor he was unique, as a friend and colleague he was exceptional, as a father he was irreplaceable."

This website is dedicated to the life and career of the celebrated Irish actor, T.P. McKenna.

Spanning a fifty year period as a star of stage, screen and radio, the pages that follow chart his progress from a small Irish village to the world stage through press cuttings, reviews, live excerpts and recordings.

Commenced in August 2010 the site is in progess and new content is being added all the time.  Please, do pop back from time to time and feel free to let us know how we're coming along.

Stephen McKenna (Site Editor)

Wednesday 13 April 2011


Critic and broadcaster, Matthew Sweet, looks back on TP's career and talent for BBC Radio 4's 'Last Word'.

Monday 11 April 2011


Fellow Abbey Theatre player,  Pat Laffan,  recalls a special colleague and friend.

Friday 11 February 2011


Photo: Adrian Korsner
The life and essence of a most unique actor and personality were celebrated in a memorial service at St.Paul's, Covent garden, otherwise known as the Actors' Church. 

The star of the show was, of course, the lately absent, TP McKenna, a bronze bust of whom looked on in silent approval as a selection of his favourite works and pieces were recited by esteemed colleagues who had also been his close friends through much of his life, including Sara Kestelman, Peter Bowles, Tim Pigott-Smith and Jim Norton.

There were choices from the King James bible, TS Eliot (Journey of the Maji), Byron (So, We'll No More go a-roving) and The Dead (James Joyce).


Sara Kestelman reading

TP's children (Ralph, Kilian, Breffni, Stephen and Sally) each participated in the moving service while grandson Tom gave a much admired rendition of Franck's Panis Angelicus, accompanied by organist, Simon Gutteridge.

At the TP McKenna memorial service at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London, were (from left) his son Stephen, actor Jim Norton, Philip Markey and actor Peter Bowles. Photograph: Joanne O'Brien

Distingushed guests were led by Sir Ronald Harwood who attended on behalf of His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales,  Ciaran Byrne, Cultural Officer of the Irish Embassy, on behalf of His Excellency, Ambassador Bobby McDonagh and on behalf of Equity, Malcolm Sinclair (president), Christine Payne (general secretary) and Stephen Spence (assistant general secretary).

Speaking after the service, son Stephen said, 'We had the best of both worlds - a service that was entirely personal to our family,  but also, one that his many friends and admirers could share in.'
He continued, 'I reckon, TP may well be at the end of a line of first-born stage actors, but still the spirit and the desire to act is as strong as ever in the generations that have followed.  Dad would have been so disappointed to have heard us say 'we won't see his like again', or anything of that ilk.'

Among the congregation were TP's closest family friends and colleagues of many years standing but especially welcome were those who were simply admirers of his work.  In addition to the selected readings the congregation also added great voice with spirited renditions of 'Lord of the Dance', 'Lord of All Hopefulness' and 'Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer'.

Peter Bowles read TS Eliot's The Journey of the Maji
Tim Pigott-Smith reading from Byron's
'So, We'll Go No More A Roving'

Ben Whitrow brought laughter into the church as he
recalled his 'ebullient, irrepressible, passionate' friend.
Jim Norton read an extract from 'The Dead' by James Joyce

In a prayer of dedication TP's sister, Annette, offered up thanks for her brother's 'unique talent, his long and rich career and the unending support and love of his friends and family,'

Concluding the service, son Stephen declared of his father,
"This most distinguished player, has left the stage
for the very last time, but still the applause goes on."

Service pictures (and portrait) reproduced courtesy of photographer Adrian Korsner ( who, for so many years,  was TP McKenna's constant friend for conversations on all matters life, politics and jazz, but who just wished the memorial producer had thought to include some Duke Ellington for TP! 

Sunday 1 August 2010


Site Editor, Stephen McKenna writes:

There are actors who retain every script and press cutting and whose study walls are lined with posters and memoirs of past productions and former triumphs,  TP McKenna, however, was never such a creature.

He enjoyed every moment of his long career but, as a pragmatist, he  always lived life for the moment, and for the next part .

Thank goodness then for his sister, Imelda, who had the application to keep track of her brother’s illustrious career.

Across five meticulously compiled volumes, the cuttings she assembled tell the story of an actor’s life and a career the like of which scarcely exists today. The trajectory from repertory theatre to television to films and the interweaving of these mediums that continued across fifty years.

It is that archive which has now made this website possible and the intention is to put a substantial amount of that material online along with an occasional commentary that tells the story of  a most diverse and fortunate career.

Indeed, TP was doubly fortunate in that he was sustained throughout his career by the love and support of his wife, May, and his five children, and it has been a privilege also to provide an intimate glimpse into our life as a family.

We thank you sincerely for your interest and we thank all those whose additional support has made this site possible.

Stephen McKenna
Site Editor