All Saints: articles

Mourners, stars farewell actor Mark Priestley

MORE than 500 mourners gathered at a Como church to farewell popular All Saints actor Mark Priestley, whose death last week shocked the nation.

Priestley's mother Judy and father Richard, and his sister Joanna and brother Tim all read eulogies to a funeral gathering of close to 600 people at the Holy Family Catholic Church.

Priestley's ex-girlfriend Kate Mulvany also spoke lovingly of her former boyfriend and "soul mate". She also placed a curl of their cat's fur on a table near the coffin.

Mulvany said that Priestley's favourite book was the Life of Pi — the story of a young Indian boy who escaped from a sinking ship into a life-raft with a collection of wild animals — a character which Priestley strongly identified with.

His brother and sister also told of fun times during their childhood.

The Priestley family, aware of the public interest in the actor's funeral, gave permission for the media to attend the Como church service, but asked that details of the eulogies not be publicised.

A former Aquinas College student, Priestley left Perth to study at NIDA in Sydney, and went on to become one of Australia's most popular young actors.

All Saints stars Wil Traval and Celeste Barber joined TV executives, family and friends at the funeral of the Perth-born actor, who tragically took his life last week after an ongoing battle with depression.

Traval plays popular Doctor Jack Quade and Barber played Bree Matthews.

"It was a really respectful, honorable service today and it was a great opportunity for the family, in particular, to grieve the way that they wanted to, and the way that they needed to," Traval told the Seven Network.

"It's just a great honour to be here and be among good friends of mine."

Channel 7 program director Ray Wardrop said the All Saints actor had attended three Telethons in Perth.

"He was always eager to help and his favourite part was visiting the children at Princess Margaret Hospital. We loved him and respected him for all he did," Wardrop said.

The Como church was packed to overflowing with family, friends and Priestley's TV colleagues who came from across Australia to farewell the popular actor.

The service was conducted by Father Aloysius Leong, with readings by his sister Joanna and brother Tim.

At the weekend, NIDA, where Priestley trained, will conduct a memorial service in Sydney.

The service opened with the moving song, Come As You Are by Deirdre Browne.

Hymns included Christ, Be Our Light and the order of service carried the poem, Footprints, which begins:

"One night a man had a dream, He was walking along the beach with the Lord. And across the sky flashed scenes from his life. In each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one made by him, and the other made by the Lord.'

On a screen throughout the service there was a phrase: 'During your time of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.'

Holy communion was given to the mourners both inside the church and outside.

The Priestley family paid tribute to the young man they described in a moving newspaper memorial notice on Friday as a “kind and loving son, brother and beautiful friend.”

“You will be missed terribly by all of us….We will always love and cherish your short life, until we meet again,” they wrote.

Channel Seven senior management, including Tim Worner, head of programming, attended. He had also went to Aquinas College with Priestley and shared the same speech and drama teacher. Managing director of Channel Seven Perth, Chris Wharton, and program and communications manager, Ray Wardrop, were also there.

All Saints achieved top ratings in Sydney 10 days ago when Priestley's character Dan Goldman married nurse Erica Templeton, played by Jolene Anderson in a blockbuster episode that attracted 1.282 million viewers.

Less than 24 hours later, Priestley was dead. He suffered deep depression for months, but was unable to beat the personal demons that led him to end his life.

Priestley, who had been with the show for four years, died without knowing his All Saints wedding was a smash hit.

He was found dead on a building ledge above Market St in the CBD having booked in under the name Damian Barker, before leaping to his death 90 minutes later. His body was not recovered until three hours afterwards.

The 32-year-old, who recently split from Mulvany, will remain on screen for another 11 pre-recorded episodes of the drama.

The Perth-born and NIDA-trained actor moved to Sydney in 1997, and had roles in The Secret Life Of Us, Blue Heelers and Better Than Sex before landing the All Saints role in 2004.

He was unable to work on some days and production was rescheduled around his illness to accommodate him in the hope he would recuperate.

Family, friends, colleagues and his Seven Network employer were aware and supportive of him during the bleak periods, a colleague said.

On Tuesday following the episode of All Saints, actor John Howard who plays Dr Frank Campion on the show, gave a moving tribute to Priestley, which is also on the All Saints website.

"Mark was blessed with a keen intelligence, a ready wit and a bucket load of talent - he is irreplaceable," said Howard.

"Mark also suffered from the scourge of depression and last week this burden became too much to bear — he took his own life.

"Don't suffer in silence, call Lifeline on 13 11 14."

A private cremation followed the service.

If you or someone you know may be at risk of suicide, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or seek immediate help from a GP or a counsellor.

By Helen Ganska
September 04, 2008