EILEEN CASEY charts the life and career of the late
‘Big Tom’ McBride, from humble beginnings on the family farm in Oram, Co. Monaghan, to his undisputed place as King of Irish Country & Western music


When music legend Big Tom McBride passed away on 17th April, singer Margo O’Donnell made the comment that the death of the ‘King’ signaled the end of an era. With tear-filled eyes and quivering voice, Margo also said that the passing of this much loved performer would mark the day the music died.

Margo’s sentiments, although rooted in loss and sadness, are felt by many. Throngs of music lovers are now feeling bereft – ordinary country & western loving folk as well as renowned singers and musicians of the genre.

Among the trove of musicians who knew Big Tom as a close friend and someone to emulate are Philomena Begley, Daniel O’Donnell, Susan McCann, TR Dallas, Sandy Kelly, Declan Nerney and many more. Such was this ‘Gentle Giant’s’ popularity with his fans that his funeral mass on Friday, 20th April, at Castleblayney (affectionately known as ‘Blayney by the Star) attracted a crowd of up to 2,000 people.

St Patrick’s, the Church at Oram, a small village outside the town, barely seats 200 but mourners spilled into the street and stood nearby rather than miss paying their respects.
Sadly, for Tom McBride’s children, Thomas, Dermot, Aisling and Siobhan, the grief resulting from the death of their father is compounded by the fact that they are still mourning their mother, Rose, who passed away only a few short months before her husband, in January, 2018.

Married for over 50 years, theirs was a fairytale romance, surviving the long absences that inevitably resulted from one partner being continually on the road.

The Showband craze was at its height when ‘Gentle Mother,’ Big Tom’s first major hit, took the dancehalls and record producers by storm. Growing up in the 60s, an abiding memory of mine is of this record belting out on high volume, over and over from my sister’s record player…because our mother absolutely idolised the County Monaghan singer!

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own