Thursday 23 May 2019

Children played with locals as icon recorded album

Richie Taylor and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

MICHAEL Jackson's children visited an Irish village school while the pop icon lived in Ireland for five months, it emerged last night.

Paddy Dunning owns the live-in Grouse Lodge Studio in Co Westmeath where Jackson and his children stayed in 2007.

Jackson recorded his new album there, flying in musicians from America, and was due to return to finish it off in a few weeks' time -- meaning there is a body of unreleased work waiting to be tapped.

Last night Mr Dunning said: "I'm actually shocked and saddened by the news of his death. I'd been looking forward so much to meeting him again, as had my children. My children are the same age as his and they used to play together when he stayed with us.

"They also attended the local school in the village of Rosemount when they were here. We had some great times together. He was very kind and very generous. He had no entourage with him, we don't allow that at Grouse Lodge. It was only him and his three children."

Mr Dunning said he expected Jackson's last work, recorded in Ireland, to be released someday.

"He had the producer from the Black Eyed Peas in and it sounded really good."

But besides having a professional relationship, the pair also became close friends. Jackson was due to officially open Mr Dunning's new Wax Museum Plus venue in Foster Place off Dame Street at the end of July.

"He also loved Irish music and Irish mythology. He knew all the stories about the old Irish legends. He would take a glass or two of wine with his evening meal, but he never went down the local pub or anything."

Meanwhile, it emerged that Jackson's son called him the "best dad in the world" and that is how his Irish chauffeur will remember the star.

Ray O'Hara, a taxi driver from Mount Temple, Co Westmeath, spent the last four months of 2006 with Jackson and his children.

Mr O'Hara described Jackson as a doting father and "an absolute gentleman".

"The first day I carried him, he got out of the van and he said: 'Thank you very much Ray.' He held out his hand to shake my hand, it was only a second but it felt like an eternity."

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