Declan Donnelly considered quitting showbiz to become a priest

Albertina Lloyd
·Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
·2-min read
Declan Donnelly considered a career in the priesthood. (PA)
Declan Donnelly considered a career in the priesthood. (PA)

Declan Donnelly has revealed he almost quit the spotlight at the age of 11 and considered joining the priesthood.

The 44-year-old TV presenter rose to fame as a child actor in BBC kids show Byker Grove alongside best friend Ant McPartlin.

But Donnelly has revealed he almost did not pursue his career in acting after he failed an audition for the lead role in another kids show Geordie Racer.

Writing in his joint autobiography Ooh! What a Lovely Pair, Donnnelly said: "After that crushing rejection, I made a momentous decision: that was it – I was going to retire from acting. I was eleven."

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Photo of ANT & DEC and PJ & DUNCAN; Declan Donnelly (Duncan) and Anthony McPartlin (PJ) performing on stage  (Photo by Patrick Ford/Redferns)
Declan Donnelly and Anthony McPartlin rose to fame as child actors in BBC kids show Byker Grove. (Getty Images)

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Donnelly – who is now married to manager Ali Astall, with whom he shares two-year-old daughter Isla – went to Catholic school and revealed he considered becoming a priest, like his brother Dermott.

He wrote: "Later on, when I was about fourteen, I did briefly consider following in his footsteps, and the footsteps of my Godfather, Father O'Connell, and becoming a priest.

"Then I got the bus home from school one day and it was full of lasses from the local girls' school, Sacred Heart. I knew right there and then that the priesthood wasn't for me."

In 1989 Donnelly was cast as Duncan in Byker Grove, where he first met McPartlin, who played his onscreen pal PJ.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28: Ant and Dec win the Bruce Forsyth Award at the National Television Awards 2020 at The O2 Arena on January 28, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
Ant and Dec have worked together for over 30 years. (Getty Images)

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McPartlin revealed in the new book that it was their love of Newcastle United football team which founded their friendship.

He recalled sending Donnelly a Christmas card in 1990, which said: "P.S. Fancy going to the Swindon match on Boxing Day?"

The pair have been best pals ever since and have presented a string of hit shows together including Britain’s Got Talent, I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and Saturday Night Takeaway.