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Singer reveals heartache after double death blow

Singing star Tommy Fleming has spoken for the first time about his family's heartache after his parents passed away within hours of each other.

Paddy, 86, and Annie, 83, Fleming had just celebrated 50 years of marriage when they both passed away last March.

The couple, who had six children, had lived all their lives in Aclare, Co Sligo.

Now in his first book, star Tommy reveals how he still feels cheated by his parents' death.

"I suppose I was blessed to have had them in my life for 41 years but I still feel cheated, and I think I am way too young to have lost them both.

"If I am honest, I found some comfort in the knowledge that they were now together, as they had been for the previous 50 years.

"It was the only comfort I could find during what I can only ever describe as the worst period in my life. I had lost friends and relatives over the years and had grieved for them, but this grief was totally different. It is a wound that will take years to heal," he says.

Tommy says he still speaks to his mother and father every day.

"I take some comfort from my belief that they are still watching out for us all from their sanctuary.

"In the months that followed, I experienced every emotion humanly possible. There's not a day goes by that I don't speak to Mam and Dad in some form, be it a prayer or just quietly telling them that I'm okay. Everyone tells me time is a great healer, but in this instance, I wish time would move a little faster," adds Tommy.

The book, Let Me Begin, recalls Tommy's life and times and his rise to stardom. It follows Tommy's progress from singing his first songs in the family's milking parlour on their farm in Sligo to selling out theatres from Dublin to Sydney.

He also recalls a near-death experience in a horrific car crash and tells why he then volunteered to work with Goal in Sudan.

Tommy Fleming appeared on The Late Late Show on Friday night. He is almost a veteran of the show, having appeared with Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny and now with Ryan Tubridy.

But the star revealed his latest appearance wasn't as nerve-wracking as his first one which almost ended in disaster in 1993.

"After about 15 seconds of an intro, it was my cue to start singing. I opened my mouth for the first lines of the song, only to discover the battery in my mic was dead. It was the one of the few times my inexperience actually helped me," he recalls.

"If I had been more experienced with TV, I may well have lost my head at such a monumental cock up, but as it was, I just continued singing with no mic! What I didn't realise was that an overhead mic was able to pick up my voice and the sound carried. I just put my head down and concentrated on my performance and delivered as best I could with no mic.

"When my song was over, the audience reaction was amazing, as were Gay Byrne's parting words. I still can hear them today. 'That was outstanding,' he said.

"Gay also referred to the audience in Carnegie Hall, New York, saying 'there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house'. I was ecstatic. I felt like I had just won the lotto," remembers Tommy.

Sunday Independent