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'An amazing presence', 'a humble man': Hundreds attend funeral of music icon Big Tom

One mourner took a taxi from Galway to pay his respects to the Irish music legend.

9730 Big Tom Funeral Large crowds of fans and mourners gather for Big Tom's funeral. Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Updated at 11.30am

THE FUNERAL OF country musician Big Tom McBride has taken place in Oram, Co Monaghan this morning.

The music icon died on Tuesday, aged 81.

The church was reported to have been full since 8am, with hundreds of mourners gathered inside and outside the church building. A sole piper led the hearse and the huge funeral procession that followed to St Patrick’s Church.

Among those in attendance at the funeral were singers Daniel O’Donnell, Susan McCann and Michael English, and Minister for Business Heather Humphries (who’s a local TD).

9623 Big Tom Funeral A bagpiper at the front of the hearse carrying the coffin of Big Tom. Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Local radio station Northern Sound has been broadcasting the funeral since 11am.

The local priest told mourners that over the next few days and weeks, TV shows and papers would celebrate Tom’s career and influence, but “at the very core of Tom’s life was his family” and that Tom was a man who was “very much down to earth”.

Among the symbols brought to the altar by Big Tom’s grandchildren were an Oram flag, Tom’s golden disc, a model tractor, a guitar, a fishing rod and family photos.

“Today we gather in this quaint little country church on a difficult and sad day for Tom’s family, for the local community, for the world of country music and for many many people in this country and beyond,” Father Leo Creelman said.

He said that Tom loved counting rabbits in the field, or cutting ivy from a tree, and loved the land. He had an interest in vintage tractors, was a golfer, a footballer in his earlier years, he loved to waterski, played snooker, watched John Wayne Westerns and enjoyed “the peace of fly fishing”.

Creelman said that Big Tom had “an amazing presence on and off stage”, had always remained “humble and down to earth”, but “he was first and foremost a family man”.

After losing a loving father, grandfather, uncle, neighbour and friend, his family would be feeling ”grief, emptiness and sadness at this time”.

This had been “a heartbreaking replay of events” for Tom’s family, the priest continued, as just 80 days ago they were at the funeral of Tom’s wife Rose. The pair were married for over 50 years.

When Rose died, a massive part of Tom went with her. He was lost, dazed, broken-hearted.

“She was the compass he needed… to be one of the biggest country music stars of our time.”

Big Tom is to be laid next to his wife Rose, who died on 30 January this year.

“We can question, but one thing we can be certain of here, death comes to us all.”

Three miles from Castleblayney, and two miles from the border, the rural townland of Oram has been visited by thousands of mourners this week as people paid their respects to country music icon.

On Wednesday, he was on public reposal in Oram Community Centre. Over the course of the day thousands of mourners filed through the sports hall to pay tribute to ‘the King’.

“There were hundreds of people queueing at all times. It could take 40-50 minutes to get through the queue,” Richard Boyd of Oram Sarsfields GAA club told TheJournal.ie.

One elderly mourner even took a taxi all the way from Galway to attend the reposal.

funeral-queue Source: Glenn Murphy

Big Tom was heavily involved in Sarsfields for decades. He was the club’s president, attended every game, and even donated the land that the community centre was built on to the club.

“He most certainly did his bit. And he went far beyond it,” Boyd said. Hundreds of volunteers from the club were involved in helping the reposal run smoothly.

“There’s never been a death as big as this in the community and there will probably not be again,” Boyd continued.

Everyone knew him. Now, he mightn’t have known them but they knew him. Anyone that met him got on extremely well with him. He was extremely well liked.

“We are all shocked and saddened. He was an ordinary man but he had an extraordinary life,” he concluded.

Those sentiments were echoed by Castleblayney photographer Glenn Murphy who said the death has cast a sombre pall on the area.

“People that don’t know him won’t realise how down-to-earth a man he was,” Murphy said.

I had many dealings with him and would be a bit starstruck when meeting him. But he was so ordinary. A really, really nice man.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha.

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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