Celebrities turn out for showbiz legend Billie's final curtain call

By Nicola Anderson

SHE was a beloved icon in golden tap shoes; glamorous, charismatic and nurturing who "sprinkled glitter into the lives of generations of children."

It was a full house yesterday at the church of St Vincent de Paul on Griffith Avenue in Dublin's Marino, in fitting tribute to showbiz legend Billie Barry.

Past pupils cast their grief aside to sing at her funeral for Billie's final curtain call.

President Michael D Higgins telephoned the family to express his sympathies

Chief mourners were her four children - David, Pat, Joan and Lorraine, along with her beloved partner, Jim and her seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Amongst the congregation were musicians Mickey Graham, Brush Shiels and Smiley Bolger, Lisa Lambe of Celtic Woman and producer John McColgan.


Her daughters, Joan and Lorraine gave a moving tribute to their mother, talking of her early start in showbiz as "Little Billie the wonder child".

"Thousands of children have passed through the school over the years, she inspired many and loved them all," said Joan, adding that she had made every single child feel special.

"We as her children are unbelievably proud," she added.

"You knew her as Billie Barry and although we had to share her with so many, she was our mum. She created our magic," said Lorraine.

Jazz singer Honor Heffernan sang Mood Indigo, accompanied by Jim Doherty on piano while Michael Grennell recited William Wordsworth's poem The Daffodils. And the Billie Barry Stage School performed a moving version of Gershwin's Someone to Watch Over Me.

Ms Barry died peacefully last Tuesday in a Dublin nursing home, set up her stage school 50 years ago this month.

Ms Barry took one secret with her to her grave - her age. The year of her birth was not included in her death notice.

The singer, who never intended to set up a stage school, turned one of her greatest heartaches into success.

The school was formed shortly after she found out her husband Paddy had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The Billie Barry Stage School became a national institution with many live TV performances on The Late Late Toy Show.

As her coffin was removed from the church, there was a final standing ovation for showbiz legend Billie.