Daniel O'Donnell pays tribute to Country music singer 'Big Tom'

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

The renowned Irish country music singer, Big Tom McBride, has died at the age of 81.

Big Tom returned to the streets of his beloved town of Castleblaney yesterday, where a large crowd gathered to pay their respects as the hearse passed.

Speaking to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Donegal singer Daniel O'Donnell described Big Tom McBride as "The King" of Irish country music.

"You'd never see one without the other", she said.

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

Many tributes have been paid to the legendary country music star Big Tom since news of his death broke this morning.

He said: "Big Tom was the King of Country for good reason".

"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". Above all, he was a family man. Tom, and his late wife Rose, formed a strong team in their household and in the wider community. "He was the first to break into the main stream music business and appeared on many United Kingdom music shows before any other Irish country music stars".

He was a trail blazer in his time, travelling the length and breath of Ireland as well as the United Kingdom entertaining the huge crowds that he and his band The Mainliners drew to every venue that they played. His songs were a reflection of Irish life and an important connection for the Irish diaspora.

"During his life, Tom brought great joy to many people, both in Ireland and worldwide, through his singing and his music".

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'Dad passed away peacefully in the company of his family.

"It's just so sad", he told RTE Radio One.

McBride, from Co Monaghan, is best known for hits including 'Four Country Roads', 'Back To Castleblayney' and 'The Old Rustic Bridge'.

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

"I can't assume anything, only there is a great reunion in heaven today". He meant so much to people and so much to the country singers in Ireland. "He would be at a show with thousands of people but he would always make the time for the likes of myself and everyone".

"But Tom McBride was more than just a singer". And in May 2017 he sang A Love That's Lasted Through the Years on the show with Margo O'Donnell.

"He was the one that everybody looked up to".

Big Tom's house is strictly private.

Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, of the Diocese of Clogher in Tom's parish, said he was a true legend.

"Irish music has truly lost a legend today". He also went on to become the club's president.

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