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Varadkar leads tributes as Irish country music star Big Tom McBride dies aged 81

The funeral of the singer will be held in Co Monaghan on Friday.


Tom McBride

Tom McBride

Tom McBride

The funeral of the Irish singer Big Tom McBride will be held on Friday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D Higgins have led tributes to the “giant” of country music who has died aged 81.

He was a huge star in the 60s and 70s, filling ballrooms and becoming known as The King of Ireland’s thriving scene.

His career spanned more than five decades, culminating in his induction into the Irish Country Music Awards Hall of Fame in June 2016.


Mr Varadkar said: “I was very saddened to hear of the death of Big Tom this morning.

“Big Tom was certainly a giant in Irish country music for over 50 years.”

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With his band the Mainliners, McBride filled dance halls the length and breadth of the country.

The Taoiseach added: “His songs were a reflection of Irish life and an important connection for the Irish diaspora.

“Not many people are known by their first name, but that was Big Tom. It shows his popularity and legendary status as the king of Irish country music.”

McBride was from Castleblayney in Co Monaghan.

His Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday morning at St Patrick’s Church at Oram in Co Monaghan.

Fans and friends can pay their respects on Wednesday afternoon at the Oram Community Centre where his remains will be lying in repose.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said lovers and supporters of Irish music everywhere will have heard of the death with sadness.

“As one of the most charismatic and influential artists in Irish country music, Big Tom was widely respected and through his five decades of music-making he leaves a lasting legacy.

“His name will be recalled with fond memory by those who listened and danced to his and his band members’ generous nights of entertainment all over the island of Ireland.

“A big personality and one of the country’s greatest country stars, his love of music and his passion and skill have enriched Ireland’s music scene.

“As president of Ireland I wish to express my deepest sympathies to his children Thomas, Dermot, Aisling and Siobhan, the members of his family, his friends and to the countless numbers of people, at home and abroad, who loved the man and his music.”

Co Donegal singer Daniel O’Donnell said the world of country music was a “richer place” because of his music.

He told Irish broadcaster RTE: “It is just so sad. I am sure his family are devastated at his passing.”

Big Tom and the Mainliners were formed in the 1960s and achieved widespread success.

Fellow country singer Lisa McHugh tweeted: “Shocked and truly saddened to hear of the passing of Big Tom this morning.

“Ireland’s King of Country Music for so many years and his legacy will live on for many years to come.

“My sincere condolences go out to all of his family and friends at this terrible time.”

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