Mrs Brown’s Boys off-camera agony - devastating deaths and tragic child loss

 Mrs Brown's Boys is all laughs on screen, but the close cast have bravely battled through heartbreak and tragedy behind-the-scenes

The Mrs Brown's Boys cast are one big supportive family (Image: BBC)

Mrs Brown's Boys has been bringing laughs to our screens for almost a decade - but behind the camera it hasn't all been smiles.

Brendan O'Carroll is the genius behind lovable Irish mammy Agnes Brown, who has gone from 90s Irish radio character to blockbuster movie star.

While the show has divided critics over the years, viewers can't get enough of the Brown family's antics and switch on in their millions.

And the comedian has made the show a family affair by getting his nearest and dearest into the cast.

Brendan's kids, children-in-law, grandson and sister appear in the series, while his wife plays his daughter.

The close-knit cast have supported each other through tragedy and heartbreak away from the cameras.

The original cast line-up has not remained intact, with one very prominent star leaving his role shortly before a family death.

The passing of an O'Carroll family member had a devastating impact on Brendan and his sister Eilish, who plays Mrs Brown's best friend Winnie.

While Brendan himself has been through ordeals and faced a terrifying health scare after filming on the show.

Here is a look at the heartbreaks the brave cast have faced over the years.

Brendan O'Carroll's tragic child loss

Brendan O'Carroll has faced unthinkable heartbreak (Image: BBC)

A devastating tragedy hit Brendan O'Carroll when he became a dad at the age of 21.

Brendan is now married to Jennifer Gibney, who plays his on-screen daughter, Cathy Brown, but experience trauma with first wife Doreen Dowdall.

The Mrs Brown's Boys creator and Doreen have three children, Danny, Eric and Fiona, but tragically lost their first child.

Their first son, Brendan Jnr, had spina bifda and was just three-days old when he passed away in 1979.

In an emotional interview on RTE’s The Tommy Tiernan Show in January this year, as reported by The Irish Mirror, Brendan bravely opened up on their loss.

"It leaves a hole," explained Brendan. "I was really young when my son died.

"He was my first child and like everyone else, I had all these things figured out in my head – the white picket fence, swing in the garden, he’d play football just like his dad and I’d go to the games with him.

"But it changed overnight. It leaves a hole.

"I’m very lucky to have three fantastic kids, but they don’t fill that gap. Not that you’d want them to, but they don’t."

Rory Cowan's mother sadly passes away

Rory Cowan played the role of his namesake for 26 years on stage and screen, but shocked fans of the show by deciding to quit in July 2017.

The real-life Rory said his departure was completely "amicable" and due to wanting to spend more time with his mother.

Rory was on tour with the cast in Australia in January 2016 when he was told his mum, Esther, only had days to live, but unfortunately he could not get home due to an insurance issue.

The actor did manage to spend one final Christmas with his beloved mother before she sadly passed away in November 2018 at the age of 85.

Grieving Rory spoke at the funeral mass, telling mourners: "I'm so glad she was my mother".

Rory also shared a hilarious story about the time his mother met Cliff Richard - and spent hours talking to him about the trade union movement in Ireland.

"She was chatting away to Cliff for hours and I was talking to everyone else and hoping that she wasn't boring him to death," said Rory.

"I said to her afterwards 'what were you talking about?' and she said the trade union movement.

"He said 'no, I loved it. My whole life since 1959 is just talking about showbusiness. Your mother didn't mention it once.' That was like a breathe of fresh air to him."

Rory added: "That was my mother. What happened outside her window, it didn't matter because she would talk about what she knew about. She would talk about her family, because she loved her family."

Agony at death of Brendan's sister 

Brendan and Eilish were rocked by the death of their sister (Image: TV Grab)

The entire Mrs Brown's Boys cast were mourning the loss of a loved one in March this year.

Brendan and co-star Eilish, who plays Agnes' best friend and neighbour Winnie McGoogan in the show, were rocked by the sad death of their sister, Fiona.

The siblings only made it out to Fiona's home in Canada the day after she sadly passed away.

However, Eilish explained how they able to have one last laugh with Fiona during an emotional final reunion at Christmas.

Opening up about their family loss, she told the Irish Mirror : "An awful lot had to be halted for me [recently].

"Sadly my sister took very ill and passed away in Canada on March 3.

"I had been out there with her for Christmas but we didn’t manage to get out until the day after she died."

(Image: BBC)

Eilish described Fiona as like a "second mammy" to her and brother Brendan in an emotional interview.

"He was there to see her and got her talking and laughing and singing and I knew she was hanging on for him," said Eilish.

“They were very close, she was like a second mammy. Very much so. For her I know it was her wish to see him and she did and that was lovely.”

The Dublin native said it was a blessing the tight-knit family finished filming All Round To Mrs Brown's before Fiona's devastating death as they were able to mourn together.

"We got to stay there for a couple of weeks. And then we flew back here and we flew into lockdown actually," she added.

"None of this had happened when we flew out but we flew back in on the March 16 and we were straight into isolation because we had been on a long-distance flight and it has been the same ever since.

"So that was a blessing and I’m looking forward to the tour that will hopefully start in June but who knows."

Damien McKiernan's son's debilitating illness

Damien McKiernan took on the role of Rory in the 2017 Christmas special (Image: BBC)

Damien McKiernan has previously opened up on his son's debilitating illness.

His family were rocked by the news that 12-year-old Theo has been diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis, of which there are only 60 cases in the whole world.

The actor, who took over as Rory Brown from Rory Cowan during the 2017 Christmas special, bravely explained how he got an operation for his boy.

Speaking to the Irish Mirror in August last year, Damien said: "He developed a very rare form of arthritis in his left leg, so rare that they didn’t know what it was.

"It’s never been recorded in Ireland or the UK before. There are only 60 cases worldwide.

"Eventually I said this was getting out of hand as his left leg was getting worse.

"I kicked up enough fuss and he got an operation just before Christmas.

"We stayed in hospital with him for a couple of weeks and we’ve been doing rehab with him ever since.

"I went to get him out of bed in May and it went into his right leg, the hospital were in shock.

"He had the second operation on his right leg in June. The right leg was stronger, the left leg almost withered away."

Damien plays Mrs Brown's son Rory on the show (Image: BBC Studios/Alan Peebles)

Damien opened up on how tough things had been, revealing that hospital stuff tried to break his son's leg as part of his gruelling treatment.

"His left leg locked in one position so we’ve been rehabbing him at home. They are brilliant in Cappagh Hospital. They tried to break his left leg to get it working but they couldn’t," added Damien.

"He’s in a bad way in a wheelchair and so we need to work really hard on the physio and hopefully by August he can get another operation on this left leg again.

"It’s been very tough. We hope with such a rare disease they can cure this, they have to open up his leg and file the bones so the joints can move.

"I have machines in the house and he can use a CPM machine at home to try to move his leg. Once we can get him on an exercise bike hopefully things will improve."

Brendan and Eilish losing their parents at young age

Eilish and Brendan O'Carroll lost their parents when they were young (Image: BBC/Alan Peebles)

Brendan was just nine-years-old when his father died, so he was very close to his mother, Maureen.

The character of Mrs Brown is actually inspired by his own beloved mammy, who sadly passed away in 1984 at the age of 71.

While there are no doubt similarities, Agnes is definitely not a direct impersonation of his mum.

She had a total of 11 children while living with her carpenter husband, but from 1954 to 1957 the university-educated schoolteacher also managed to be a Labour Teachta Dala, a member of the Irish Parliament.

"I adored my mother. My dad died when I was only nine, so I grew up with my mother. It was me and her. I was the youngest of the kids," he told RTE’s The Tommy Tiernan Show in January this year.

"She was a very sharp woman and she would see things coming down the line.

"I’d be trying something and she’d know if it was going to work and she would say ‘bring this to a close’. You always had to finish things with her and move on.

Maureen died when Brendan was in his 20s, but the comedian admitted it was the best thing that happened to him in a strange way.

He added: "So I never failed. The best thing she did for me was die.

"She died when I was 28 and for the first five years every thing I touched went to crap, and I thought I was a loser.

"I started to realise it was only in the losing and in failing that you learn. You learn nothing in succeeding."

Brendan in hospital health scare

There would be no Mrs Brown's Boys without Brendan (Image: Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Brendan has battled with his own health problems - with one worrying incident occurring during filming.

The Mrs Brown actor feared he was going to die from a heart attack after filming a Christmas special in Scotland.

Speaking on Ireland’s The Late Late Show in October 2017, Brendan admitted he thought he was "a goner" and woke wife Jennifer Gibney up.

"I thought I was having a heart attack. I had this bug and at about 2am I had to wake Jenny up. We were filming the Christmas special up in Glasgow," said Brendan.

"I said to her ‘You should call an ambulance’. We called the ambulance as we wanted to meet them on the street.

"When Jenny and I were in the lift we were still on 999. They told her to put her hand on my tonsil, to count my heart beat.

"It was all going on. I had the fright of my life and I thought I was a goner.

"When I got in the ambulance they said ‘Well it is not your heart ’ and I vomited it out for 12 hours. I had a very violent bug."

Thankfully, Brendan made a full recovery after his terrifying health scare.

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