Mullagh-born actor TP McKenna, who died on Sunday evening, has left an immense legacy to the world of acting. Forever proud of his Cavan roots, he was a regular visitor until the onset of illness in recent times.
The son of Raphael and Mae McKenna, who were established business people in Mullagh, TP went to the local national school before going on to St Patrick’s College, Cavan, where his talents as an actor were recognised by Fr Vincent Kennedy, who selected him for roles Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
The experience was to whet the young TP’s appetite for drama and although he joined the Ulster Bank after leaving school, he joined the Abbey Theatre and undertook more than 70 stage roles between 1953 and 1962. He was made a life member of the theatre in 1968.
TP also performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre Company among others. He played alongside some of the most famous names of the 20th century, such as Dustin Hoffman, Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum and in TV series such as The Saint, The Sweeney and Minder.
TP McKenna was a Cavan at heart and has written and spoken fondly of his family and of his life growing up in Mullagh. He performed a one-man presentation of one of the works of Patrick Kavanagh at Cavan Drama Festival some 20 years ago.
He kept in close contact with his family and his sister, Sally, remembers him fondly as a brother who visited regularly. She says he was deeply affected by the death of his wife, Mae, a few years ago and he will be buried alongside her in the old cemetery in Mullagh. Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised.
TP McKenna is survived by his daughter, Sally, and sons, Rafe, Killian, Breffni and Stephen. He is also survived by brothers John and Peter (members of the legal profession in Dublin), Raphael, Mullagh; sisters, Sally, Cavan, Sr Annette, Daughter of Charity, Sr Imelda, Daughter of the Cross, England, Mrs Bernadette McCabe, Moynalty and Mrs Angela McNicholas, Mullagh. Two of his siblings died in infancy.