He was brought up in a middle-class Dublin household, his father was the editor of the “Irish Punch”, the famous “Dublin Opinion”. He claims his desire to become an actor began when he saw a cartoon in which a clown on a stage looked sadly at things being thrown at him. “It seemed to me like a kind of Calvary, kind of triumph over adversity by perseverance and smiling on.”
Frank starred in popular RTÉ children’s programme Wanderly Wagon alongside Eugene Lambert and Nora O’Mahoney from 1968-1982, playing a number of different characters and writing many of the scripts.
His work on Hall’s Pictorial Weekly established Kelly as one of Ireland’s most recognisable faces, and led to him getting the role of Father Jack.
He has been married to Baibre Neldon since 1964, and they have seven children. He also appeared in the film Rat in 2000, and his first ever role in film or television was as an uncredited prisoner in the classic film The Italian Job (1969). For his role in Father Ted, he is said to have worn contact lenses (to show Father Jack’s blank eye), and he said that people wouldn’t talk to him if he was in his Father Jack make-up.
He released a single, Christmas Countdown, which charted in the top 20 in both the Irish and UK Singles Charts, and an album, Comedy Countdown, which featured a sketch taken from his radio show, The Glen Abbey Show. The show which was on RTE during the ‘70’s came on at 2.30 p.m each weekday and if you worked in a business where there was a radio you could be sure for the half hour it was on there was very little productivity. His most hilarious sketches always started with the sound of him putting coins in an old phone coinbox and when the phone rang and was answered, his words, “Hello! Guess who?” Sheer magic, as far as most listeners were concerned.
His work for various Irish charities, although unpublicised, has been formidable.