Julia O'Donnell had a famous son 'but she was still one of us'
THEY came in their hundreds to pay respect to a village elder.
Julia O'Donnell may have been the mother of the most popular country singer in these islands.
But here in the west Donegal Gaeltacht of Ceann Caslach, she was just one of them.
"I last saw her a few weeks ago," says Geraldine Bonner, who runs the post office at The Cope supermarket.
"She was a lovely woman. We know she has a famous son in Daniel and a famous daughter in Margo but here she's one of the villagers and the whole area mourns her.
"Julia had a tough time in life and thank God she was able to see Daniel and Margo do so well."
A few yards away up the street stewards wearing yellow road safety bibs were directing cars into the back gardens of neighbours.
Eighneachan Murray, who runs the village's only pub, Iggy's, says the death of the popular matriarch was sad for the parish.
"It's a sad thing when anyone goes but at least she was surrounded by her family and now the family is surrounded by a very big, close community that will rally around them and get them through the difficult few weeks and months they have ahead," said the barman.
Daniel's celebrity is celebrated here but he's left alone. He's one of the locals.
As are Gay Byrne and Stephen Rea when they pop in for a pint.
At the wake house people spoke in whispers as they came to say prayers for Julia.
Daniel, who had been by his mother's side when she died, was by her side again as mourners flocked to pay their respects.
"She was a wonderful woman. The family has lost a wonderful mother and it's so sad," said one mourner.
Mary Flaherty, who travelled from Co Armagh, had met Julia O'Donnell "loads of times" at Daniel's concerts over the years.
"As fans we all felt we knew her and coming here today was no different than going to the wake of a relative", she said.
As evening arrived the number of cars carrying mourners to and from the O'Donnell family home increased, many carrying rosary beads and Mass cards.
Today thousands will gather at the same spot as Julia is taken for the last time from the O'Donnell family home for the short journey to St Mary's parish church in the village for 1pm requiem Mass.
She will be laid to rest afterwards in Belcruit Cemetery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.