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Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Hundreds gather for funeral of country music legend ‘Big Tom’

Some of the biggest names in Irish country music gathered in Oram on Friday for the funeral of country music legend “Big Tom” McBride, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81.

Tributes had poured in throughout the week for the man affectionately dubbed the ‘King’ of Irish country music during a career that spanned five decades. The Co Monaghan-born singer was a huge star in the 60s and 70s, with his band, Big Tom and the Mainliners, filling ballrooms around the country. 

A public wake held in Oram Gaelic Football Club, near Castleblayney, on Wednesday, saw thousands of people flocking from far and wide to pay their respects to the renowned musician.  Tom had given the land for the clubhouse and pitch to his beloved club 25 years ago, so it was seen by many as a fitting place for fans to say their farewells. 

On Friday, hundreds of mourners descended on his home townland of Oram for Requiem Mass at Saint Patrick’s Church.  Family, neighbours and friends were joined by stars which included Daniel O’Donnell and Irish country stars Susan McCann and Michael English. 

O’Donnell told reporters as he arrived, 

“He may be gone, but the King will live on, in everybody’s hearts and certainly in his music.” 

Irish president, Michael D Higgins visited Big Tom’s family at the family home on Thursday evening and was represented at the funeral by his aide de camp, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was also represented.

Family members placed Big Tom’s Golden Disc, a tractor, a guitar, a fishing rod, and family photos on his coffin, which was draped with an Oram Sarsfields flag. 

Celebrant Fr Leo Creelman, described Tom as “a man big in stature, matched up with an even bigger heart,” and said it was a sad day for the world of country music “and for many, many people throughout our country and beyond.”

He told the congregation it was “a heartbreaking replay of events” for the McBride family, following the death of their mother, Tom’s wife, Rose, just three months ago. 

“When Rose died a massive part of Tom went with her. He was lost, dazed and brokenhearted,” Fr Creelman said.

“He was referred to as a legend, a giant, an icon, a king, labels often liberally thrown out about others, but titles that Big Tom richly deserved and earned after decades of success in the country music scene, culminating with a lifetime achievement award at the Irish Country Music Awards in 2016.”

Father Creelman added that Friday was a day to focus on “Tom the family man, the ordinary man, a man very much down to earth.”

“And it was the earth of this place Oram, County Monaghan, that kept Tom McBride grounded. He loved this place.”

Requiem Mass was followed by burial in the adjoining cemetery.  Big Tom is survived by sons Thomas and Dermot, daughters Aisling and Siobhán, and sister Madge. 

The funeral cortege makes it way to Saint Patrick’s Church in Oram, County Monaghan, for the funeral of country music star Big Tom McBride. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday April 20, 2018. See PA story FUNERAL McBride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire