Icon of the Irish Country Music scene Big Tom McBride has passed away

Tributes pour in following the death of ‘gentle giant.’

Sligo News File

Legend of the Irish country music scene Big Tom McBride died early this morning. His death, at 81, followed the passing of his beloved wife, Rose only a few weeks ago, in January.

In a statement on Facebook, his family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear father Big Tom McBride (RIP) this morning.

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

“He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

“May he rest in peace.

Tributes to the ‘gentle giant’ have been pouring into radio stations and other media across the country and abroad. Expressing sympathy to his family, the President Michael D Higgins acclaimed him as “one of the most charismatic and influential artists in Irish country music.”

He said lovers and supporters of Irish music everywhere will have heard the news of his death with sadness.

“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.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sent his condolences to the family. He 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.”

Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith said: “Big Tom brought country music to every corner of our island and he provided wonderful entertainment for countless numbers of Irish people across Britain and America. He was a star attraction on the music scene for over five decades – a career which was a testament to his talent and his personality.”

Journalist and broadcaster Michael Commins, one of his closest friends of many years, described as “palpable” the depth of sadness Big Tom’s passing had evoked throughout the country. He was a man of “unassuming modesty,” and “encapsulated that lovely quality that is the ruralness of Ireland,” he said in an interview with Mid
West Radio.

Star of Irish country music Margo O Donnell, one of his oldest friends, said Big Tom “was so larger than life in the music world.” She had known him since 1966, and never heard him speak ill of anybody. Today, she said, “there’s a big cloud over Castleblayney.”

Big Tom, one of six children – two died – hailed from the family farm in Oram. He worked in Scotland, England and the Channel Islands before finally returning home when his brother of seventeen died. He rose to fame first as a saxophone player then a vocalist with the Mainliners. Success followed with numerous hits including Gentle Mother, Old Log Cabin for Sale, Broken Marriage Vows, Four Roads to Glenamaddy, Bunch of Violets Blue, Sunset Years of Life, the Old Rustic Bridge and You’re Going Out The Same Way You Came In.

He left the Mainliners for a time but later returned to the band. Afterwards, he went on to pursue a solo career as a singer. In 2017 Big Tom and Margo released a beautiful duet entitled “A Love That’s Lasted Through The Years.”

Big Tom is survived by two sons and two daughters.

The Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District has commissioned a statue in Big Tom’s honour which members plan to erect in September – the date of his birthday.

The ‘gentle giant’ who entertained generations of people, young and old, at home and abroad for decades past, will be laid to rest this Friday following his funeral mass in St. Patrick’s Church, Oram, at 11 am. Burial will follow in the adjoining cemetery.

Michael Commins will present a Big Tom tribute show on Mid West Radio tomorrow night.