Thousands made their way to Oram, Co Monaghan, today to pay their last respects to the late king of Irish country music, Big Tom McBride, who died on Tuesday aged 81.
Included among the attendance were Daniel O’Donnell, Margo, Philomena Begley and Dickie Rock. The local GAA club, Oram Sarsfields, provided a guard of honour and the coffin was draped in the club’s flag.
Daniel O’Donnell said: “You think people like Tom are going to go on forever. And in the country music circle, there’s no question that he was the king, and he will be the king.
“He may be gone, but the king will live on, in everybody’s hearts and certainly in his music.”
The showband leader from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, exemplified the Irish show band scene at its peak with his peerless band The Mainliners.
His death follows the passing of his wife of more than 50 years, Rose, earlier this year.
It was announced by Tom’s four children on his Facebook page earlier today: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear father Big Tom McBride (RIP) this morning. Dad passed away peacefully in the company of his family. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him. May he rest in peace.”
President Michael D. Higgins said: “Lovers and supporters of Irish music everywhere will have heard the news of the death of Big Tom McBride with sadness.
As one of the most charismatic and influential artists in Irish country music, Big Tom was widely respected and through his five decades of music making he leaves a lasting legacy.
His name will be recalled with fond memory by those who listened, and danced to, his and his band members’ generous nights of entertainment all over the island of Ireland.
A big personality and one of the country’s greatest country stars, his love of music and his passion and skill have enriched Ireland’s music scene.
As President of Ireland I wish to express my deepest sympathies to his children Thomas, Dermot, Aisling and Siobhan, the members of his family, his friends and to the countless numbers of people, at home and abroad who loved the man and his music.”
“With his band the Mainliners, he filled dance halls the length and breadth of the country. His songs were a reflection of Irish life and an important connection for the Irish diaspora.
“Not many people are known by their first name, but that was Big Tom. It shows his popularity and legendary status as the king of Irish country music.
“I want to extend my condolences to his family and his huge army of fans.”
Singer Daniel O’Donnell had earlier said: “He reached out to people in Ireland, and those who had emigrated from Ireland In the days so many people lived in England and their connection with home was all the music and dances at the weekend. He meant so much to people and so much to the country singers in Ireland.
“He will be missed so, so much. He was the greatest.
“It’s just so sad. On the other hand, he was probably heartbroken without his wife, Rose. Maybe for him, it’s a gift from God. His family, I’m sure they are just devastated at his passing.
“I’m sure since Rose died, his life was darker. Every step Tom took, Rose was a step behind him. I can’t assume anything, only there is a great reunion in heaven today.”
Tom’s peer and contemporary on the Irish show band scene, Dickie Rock, said: “He was loved because, one thing he was a talented man and he sang the kind of music people wanted to hear, but what is also nice and very important was that he was a very nice man. He appealed to people and people knew looking at the show on stage that he was a nice man.”
Anther contemporary of Tom’s, Philomena Begley, said: “I’m very sad because I didn’t realise he was as ill as he was. I’m shocked more than anything.
“(Tom) loved singing and loved getting on the stage”.
Tom was one of four children born to parents who had a farm near Castleblayney in Co Monaghan but his actual musical career began in Scotland and England. Success came when he returned to Ireland and started to play with the band with whom he would become synonymous, The Mainliners.
In the late 1970s he left and formed another backing band, The Travellers, with whom he had hits like Four Country Roads and Back to Castleblayney.
The Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District had commissioned a statue in Big Tom’s honour, to stand in Castleblayney, which its councillors had hoped would have been unveiled while he was still alive.
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