Rory O’Donoghue, best known as the child-like, sunny antidote to the bullish Aunty Jack in the cult Australian comedy show, has been farewelled in Sydney.
O’Donoghue, 68, died in hospital on Wednesday last week survived by four children and seven grandchildren.
His son Ben O’Donoghue is a Christian pastor and led the service at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta, a venue where O’Donoghue and Aunt Jack star Graeme Bond performed.
O’Donoghue played the character Thin Arthur in The Aunty Jack Show, created for the ABC in the 1970s, featuring the titular character as a bikie in drag and self-proclaimed Queen of Wollongong.
Despite being a bubbly comedic entertainer on screen, O’Donoghue endured troubled times with mental illness, which Ben touched on in the memorial.
“My father experienced some desperately dark times in his life, especially in recent times, this darkness was overwhelming for him,” he said.
Last week, one of O’Donoghue’s daughters Jessica took to Facebook to explain that her father had taken his own life.
“We feel it’s important to share that Dad had suffered from severe depression and mental illness for many many years,” she wrote.
“Dad had a long battle with his demons and despite his amazing life, talent and success, he was not able to overcome the illness that plagued him.”
Ben said the family were on holidays in New Zealand when they heard of their father’s death.
“It’s the worst call you can imagine taking,” he said.
Wife Carolyn Bennett described O’Donoghue as her soul mate said she was angry at the hospital where her husband died, saying she felt they were negligent in their duty of care.
‘I just feel so empty’: Aunty Jack
Bond, who broke down before being able to start his tribute, described O’Donoghue as a “monster talent”.
“We were a team for 51 years,” he said.
“I think he liked me, even though I was a really shithouse guitar player.”
Bond spoke of seeing O’Donoghue just days before his passing and asking him what his favourite song was that they had written together.
O’Donoghue said it was a song from the film Fatty Finn, which Bond went on to sing a few lines from during his homage.
“How could anybody try to understand me without you and you without I?”
Bond, who met O’Donoghue at university in 1966, said they shared a love affair with music and comedy and had an incredible connection.
“Something magic happened, there was a chemistry between us.”
Fighting back tears, Bond made a comparison to two characters the pair created, best friends Neil and Errol, who were two men sitting on a park bench.
“I just feel so empty,” he said.
“I feel like Neil and Errol on that bench… without the other person there.
“It can never be again.”
Bond and O’Donoghue collaborated on a number of projects before being approached in the late 1960s by the ABC kids radio section to write a show.
The rudeness of the Aunty Jack content did not suit the children’s format, but a couple years later it was adapted for television.
O’Donoghue’s musical career continued long after Aunty Jack, composing for ABC TV series the Bush Tucker Man and other on-screen scores.
He taught music at schools over Sydney and passed on that passion to his four children Danielle, Madeline, Ben and Jessica.