The renowned Irish actor Richard Harris died on Friday night, aged 72. His passing was announced by his family, Harris was being treated for some months for Hodgkins Disease, a form of cancer, at University College Hospital, London where he died. He is survived by his sons, actors Jared and Jamie, and director Damian.

Harris's career spanned six decades following his acclaimed first leading role as professional rugby player Frank Machin in This Sporting Life (1963). He received the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance as Machin and was later nominated for an Academy Award in the same role. It would be twenty seven years before he received his second nomination, for his performance as 'The Bull' McCabe in Jim Sheridan's The Field.

Harris did little to dispel the reputation he earned in the sixties and seventies as one of the original showbiz hellraisers, and while his hard-drinking days were put an end to in the early 1980s following a serious health scare he maintained the image of being a 'difficult' character who took his work very seriously.

His success in The Field led to a late flowering in Harris's career, which had languished somewhat following his early promise and popular successes like A Man Called Horse and Camelot. Since the early 1990s Harris turned in a series of convincing performances in important cameo roles in well-known films like the Oscar winning Unforgiven and Gladiator and in smaller films like Gilles McKinnon's Trojan Eddie.

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern led Irish tributes to the Limerick-born actor, describing him as "one of Ireland's most outstanding artists". Richard Harris will now appear posthumously in Don Boyd's Liverpool crime drama based on King Lear, My Kingdom, and as Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets.