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Farewell Francis: Irish country mourns passing of much-loved star Donnelly


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Singer Francis Donnelly who has passed away

Singer Francis Donnelly who has passed away

The late singer Francis Donnelly

The late singer Francis Donnelly

Singer Francis Donnelly who has passed away

The country music world is mourning the loss of one of its most popular stars after singer Francis Donnelly lost his battle with brain cancer.

The 50-year-old passed away peacefully on Thursday at his home, holding hands with his wife.

Just two weeks ago Edel (48) opened her heart to Sunday Life to talk about her devastation that Francis had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January last year, just four months after she married her "soulmate".

She nursed her husband in his final months and was grateful for the incredible support from people in the country music world across Ireland.

Hundreds are hoping to line the streets to pay their respects to the popular singer and keyboard player, whose life will be celebrated today at a Requiem Mass in Magherafelt.

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The late singer Francis Donnelly

The late singer Francis Donnelly

The late singer Francis Donnelly

Close friend and country music journalist Malcolm McDowell appealed on behalf of the family for people to respect social distancing.

"The thing about the country music world is that it is like a family and I have taken calls from singers, pubs, hotels, managers and DJs wanting to come to the funeral," he said.

"We would ask people when the chapel fills up to line the route outside and ensure that they are socially distancing.

"The thing about Francis was, if you asked him to do something, he did it without ever wanting anything in return.

"Edel was holding his hand when he passed away. She is absolutely devastated. She is numb and has no life in her."

In a touching tribute to Francis on her Facebook page, Edel wrote: "My beautiful Francis is at peace now. I didn't think it was possible to love someone as much as we loved each other. My soulmate, beautiful inside and out, you fly high with the angels now, my darling, to we meet again."

In her interview with Sunday Life two weeks ago, Edel revealed the touching story behind their relationship and her heartache at watching her partner battle cancer.

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Francis Donnelly with wife Edel

Francis Donnelly with wife Edel

Francis Donnelly with wife Edel

"Francis and I were just meant to be together. We were both married before and finally found each other in 2017. He is my soulmate and that's the saddest thing because I can't imagine my life without him," she emotionally explained.

"We have been married such a short time, but we have packed so much into it... more than some people who are married 30 years."

Francis was known as a talented keyboard player and singer. He had a number of hit singles including Within My Father's Arms and the Last Great Love Song.

Last month he was given a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to country music by the Red Carpet Award Show, a prestigious annual music competition in Holland that also inducted him into its hall of stardom.

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Francis Donnelly was awarded the Hall of Stardom awards 2020

Francis Donnelly was awarded the Hall of Stardom awards 2020

Francis Donnelly was awarded the Hall of Stardom awards 2020

In February of this year he got a standing ovation when he performed at the Northern Ireland Country Music Awards, where he was also presented with an award for making an outstanding contribution to country music.

He will be laid to rest in the Parish of Lavey on Sunday following a service at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Magherafelt at 12pm.

He is survived by Edel, her son Cillian, his parents Francis and Brigid and his siblings Thomas, Paddy and Bernie.

Sunday Life