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! 

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