Saturday 20 October 2018

'We're losing a gentleman, he'll never be replaced' - hundreds line streets to pay tribute to Big Tom

Former band members accompany the coffin of Big Tom McBride as it is applauded through the centre of Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Former band members accompany the coffin of Big Tom McBride as it is applauded through the centre of Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

SINGERS TR Dallas, Margo and Derek Ryan were amongst those who came to pay their emotional respects to legendary singer Big Tom, at a public reposal in his native village of Oram, Co Monaghan.

“We’re losing a gentleman,” TR said of the star, who he first met in 1967 while they were both playing at the carnival in Moate, Co Westmeath and went on to become lifelong friends.

Hundreds of people have come to the local community centre in Oram where the singer has been laid out beneath a huge mural painted as a tribute to him. His guitar was placed at the foot of the coffin and a number of treasured family photographs were placed close by.

The singer’s children, Thomas, Dermot, Aisling and Siobhan received the visitors who came to pay their respects and to share reminiscences of the ‘King’ of Irish Country.

“It was an unbelievable time,” said TR Dallas of the showband era, recalling the crowds of thousands who would come to see Big Tom.

The ‘King’ of Irish country music – who passed away yesterday at the age of 81 – was a unique singer with his own sound and “every song he picked was a hit,” said TR Dallas.

As well as that, he was ‘very witty and funny’ and in the latter years they became very close, he added.

“He’ll never be replaced,” he said, adding that Big Tom did not realise “how powerful and how popular he was.”

He also paid tribute to the singer’s wife, Rose, who passed away just 11 weeks ago, describing her as a ‘pure lady’.

Well-known singer Margo O’Donnell said she was broken-hearted at the loss of both Tom and Rose whom she described as ‘family’. Living close by, she had seen them both regularly, she said.

“I lost my friends 11 weeks apart – Rose died 11 weeks ago yesterday,” she said, saying that she didn’t know what she would do without them.

“Nothing is ever going to be the same again – at least not for me,” she said, revealing that she was even considering whether she would continue with her own music career.

Former Mainliners band members Henry McMahon and Kevin McCooey in Castleblaney
Photo: Tony Gavin
Former Mainliners band members Henry McMahon and Kevin McCooey in Castleblaney Photo: Tony Gavin

It had been Margo who had first put forward the idea of a statue to Tom which is currently being completed and will stand proudly at the heart of Castleblayney.

“But Rose used to tell me ‘you’d need to hurry up Margo,’” she said, adding that Rose had been very spiritual and may have known there was not much time left. “She used to say ‘you don’t know what’s going to happen’,” said Margo.

Meanwhile singer Derek Ryan, told how he had supported Big Tom at a gig at the tender age of 12 and considered him an inspirational figure in his career.

“To my mind he was the greatest of Irish country music – and now he’s gone,” he said.

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