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Leading lights pay tribute to much-loved musician

FIGURES from the Irish entertainment industry gathered yesterday to say a fond farewell to musician Paul Ashford.

The 61-year-old frontman of Dublin group Stepaside -- who died on Sunday -- was one of a rare breed of players whose career crossed over into both rock and showbands.

This was reflected in the mourners from across the music business who attended the service in the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Bray, Co Wicklow.

They included singer Dickie Rick, whom he once backed in The Miami Showband, musical theatre star Colm Wilkinson, and songwriter Paul Brady.

Father Enda Lloyd, conducting the service, described Mr Ashford "as a wonderful talented musician at the heart of so many important movements in our music scenes and someone who could entertain people no matter where he went".

His bass guitar stood on the altar as Fr Lloyd recounted how Mr Ashford's son, Ian, had explained to him how, during the last recession in the 80s, his father had always "loved to give people a lift".

"That was what Paul Ashford loved to do -- lift people when things were down. We could do with it again," added Fr Lloyd.

Quoting one of his best-known compositions, 'I Always Loved You And I Always Will', Fr Lloyd said Mr Ashford's music "would stand the test of time" and this was one of a number of songs performed at the funeral by the late musician's band Stepaside.

In a moving address, Ian Ashford told mourners of how his father had made him "laugh for days and even weeks, with his music, wit and jokes".

"He had time for everyone and he would give you the shirt off his back. My dad brought great joy to my life, and days and days of happiness," Ian added.

Following the service there were more tributes from other well-known faces in Irish showbusiness.

"Paul was like the late Joe Dolan -- he was one of those people you loved seeing coming towards you," said showband leader Paddy Cole.

Singer Paul Brady added: "Paul was part of my music scene for 40 years and I will miss him very much."

"Paul Ashford was a working musician right up until the end of his life and he wouldn't have wanted it any other way," said Dickie Rock.

Mr Ashford is mourned by his former wife Breda, son Ian, sister Chrissy, brothers-in-law Alan and Owen and sister-in-law Betty.

The funeral service was followed by a private cremation in the Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Irish Independent