Sunday 15 December 2019

Hundreds expected to mark passing of Daniel O'Donnell's 'dear mother Julia'

The late Julia O'Donnell with her son Daniel.
The late Julia O'Donnell with her son Daniel.
Julia O'Donnell with her brother Owenie McGonagle and her daughter Margo pictured together in August 2010 Photo: Eoin Mc Garvey
Cortege of Julia O'Donnell yesterday

Mark O'Regan

HUNDREDS of fans will descend on a small Donegal village tomorrow to bid farewell to singer Daniel O'Donnell's 94-year-old mother who died following a recent illness.

Julia O'Donnell passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning shortly after her famous son rushed home from a series of concerts in Scotland to be at her side.

She will be laid to rest following 1pm requiem Mass in St Mary's Church, Kincasslagh, Co Donegal.

The Very Reverend Pat Ward told the Irish Independent he was expecting a "very large turnout" to mark her passing.

"Daniel has many very loyal followers who had met Julia down through the years. Mother and son had a very personal relationship – and she was also extremely well known in the area. However, she wasn't involved in day-to-day activities in the church for some time because of her age. The details of the Mass have not yet been decided – such as the use of large screens,'' he said.

Mrs O'Donnell has long been acknowledged by the singer as having been a major formative influence in his life.

She also attracted national attention for hosting various 'tea parties' at the family home in Kincasslagh.

One of her major enthusiasms was knitting, and last year she got a letter of acknowledgement from Buckingham Palace, after she sent a pair of knitted gloves to the queen. "I decided to knit the gloves when I saw all the footage of her walking her corgis in the cold,'' she said.

She had previously received a letter, and a pair of rosary beads from Pope Benedict after she had posted him a pair of hand-knitted socks.

The singer made the announcement of the death of his beloved mother on his website. "It is with great sadness, that we have to announce that our dear mother Julia passed away peacefully, in the loving care of the staff of Dungloe Hospital, surrounded by all her family on Sunday, May 18, at 3.50am,'' he said.

"My siblings John, Margaret, Kathleen, James, and myself, would like to thank you all for the kindness you have shown to her down through the years. May her gentle soul rest in peace," he added.

And the singer's wife, Majella, who has been battling cancer, also revealed the news to her Twitter followers. "It is with sadness that I announce the death of Daniel's mother Julia. Rest in peace," she said.

Daniel made many public references to his mother over the years – in particular acknowledging the huge role she played in his childhood and early teens.

"When my father died, my mother lost her partner in life, and was left alone to shoulder the responsibility of rearing us. The love and admiration I hold for my mother knows no bounds, because she ensured we never wanted for anything," said Daniel previously.

Julia, a native of the small island of Owey off the Donegal coast, moved to nearby Kincasslagh, when she married local man Francie O'Donnell. The couple went on to have five children of whom the now 52-year-old Daniel was the youngest.

Tragedy struck the family when her husband – aged just 49 – died suddenly of a heart attack in 1968. Daniel was only six years old at the time, and he has often acknowledged the many challenges his mother faced, raising five children on her own.

"I suspect people have the impression that my mother kept me hanging on to her apron strings when I was a kid, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

"She wasn't at all overprotective. I had great freedom, a terrific childhood the same as everyone else in our area. I was always in and out of neighbours' houses when I was a child, and I was full of news."


In recent years Julia went to live with Daniel's sister, Kathleen, and her family who also live in Kincasslagh, before subsequently moving to a nursing home in Dungloe.

Throughout yesterday, both friends and fans of the singer have been posting countless messages of condolence on social media outlets.

Singer Frances Black tweeted: "Majella and Daniel, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, my condolences to you and all the family xx."

Irish Independent

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