Daniel O'Donnell at bedside as beloved mother Julia dies aged 94
Hundreds of fans will descend on a small Donegal village tomorrow to bid farewell to singer Daniel O'Donnell's 94-year-old mother, who died following an illness.
She passed way in the early hours of yesterday morning shortly after her famous son rushed home from a series of concerts in Scotland to be at her side.
Julia O'Donnell will be laid to rest following 1pm Requiem Mass in St Mary's Church, Kincasslagh.
The Very Reverend Pat Ward said he was expecting a "very large turnout" to mark her passing.
"Daniel has many very loyal followers who had met Julia down through the years.
"Mother and son had a very personal relationship – and she was also extremely well-known in the area. However, she wasn't involved in day-to-day activities in the church for some time because of her age,'' he said.
Mrs O'Donnell has long been acknowledged by the singer as having been a major formative influence in his life. She also attracted international attention for hosting various tea parties at the family home in Kincasslagh.
One of her great hobbies was knitting, and last year she got a letter of acknowledgement from Buckingham Palace after she sent a pair of knitted gloves to the Queen. "I decided to knit the gloves when I saw all the footage of her walking her corgis in the cold,'' she said.
She had previously received a letter and rosary beads from Pope Benedict after she had posted him a pair of hand-knitted socks.
The singer made the announcement of the death of his beloved mother on his website. "It is with great sadness, that we have to announce that our dear mother Julia passed away peacefully, in the loving care of the staff of Dungloe Hospital, surrounded by all her family on Sunday, May 18 at 3.50am,'' he said.
"My siblings John, Margaret, Kathleen, James, and myself, would like to thank you all for the kindness you have shown to her down through the years. May her gentle soul rest in peace," he added.
And the singer's wife Majella, who has been battling cancer, also told her Twitter followers. "It is with sadness that I announce the death of Daniel's mother Julia. Rest in peace," she said.
Daniel O'Donnell made many public references to his mother over the years – in particular acknowledging the huge role she played in his childhood and early teens.
"When my father died, my mother lost her partner in life, and was left alone to shoulder the responsibility of rearing us. The love and admiration I hold for my mother knows no bounds, because she ensured we never wanted for anything," he once said.
Tragedy struck the family when her husband Francie died suddenly of a heart attack in 1968, aged just 49. Daniel was only six years old at the time, and he has often acknowledged the many challenges his mother faced, raising five children on her own.
"I suspect people have the impression that my mother kept me hanging on to her apron strings when I was a kid, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
"She wasn't at all overprotective. I had great freedom, a terrific childhood the same as everyone else in our area," said the performer.