“Big Tom had an amazing presence when he walked into a room or onto a stage. He was a man big in stature, matched up with an even bigger heart. Despite all his success and fame, he always remained humble and down to earth and first and foremost a family man.”
Those are words that mourners will hear in the homily read by Fr Leo Creelman during Country legend 'Big' Tom McBride's funeral mass, which is getting underway in St Patrick's Church, Oram, Castleblayney around now.
Thousands of mourners are in Oram to pay their respects including a host of celebrities from the Country Music and entertainment world are expected to attend as well as politicians, local and national, as the man, known as 'the King' is laid to rest.
The chief mourners are Big Tom's sons Thomas and Dermot; and his daughters Aisling and Siobhan. He is also sadly missed by his sister Madge, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, relatives and many friends and fans.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D Higgins are among those leading tributes to the “giant” of country music, who passed away last Tuesday, aged 81 years, less than three months after the death of his beloved wife Rose.
He was ahuge star in the 60s and 70s and, with his band The Mainliners, filled ballrooms the length and breadth of the country. He was known to regularly pack out the famous Galtymore in Cricklewood in London with crowds of over 2,500 revellers and was given the honour of being the last act to perform at the venue when it closed in 2008.
Big Tom's career spanned more than five decades, culminating in his induction into the Irish Country Music Awards Hall of Fame in June 2016.
With hits such as 'Gentle Mother', 'Four Country Roads', 'Back to Castleblayney' and 'The Old Rustic Bridge', Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “His songs were a reflection of Irish life and an important connection for the Irish diaspora.
“Not many people are known by their first name, but that was 'Big Tom'. It shows his popularity and legendary status as the king of Irish country music.”
Fr Leo Creelman CC is the chief celebrant of 'Big Tom' McBride's funeral mass this morning.
Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D Higgins, visited Tom’s family at the family home yesterday evening (Thursday). At today's funeral, he is represented by his Aide de Camp, Commandant Brian Walshe. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is also represented by his Aide de Camp, Commandant Caroline Burke. Other public representatives present include the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, the Cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council, Cllr Cathy Bennett, Oireachtas members and members of local authorities as well as representatives of the GAA.
Guards of Honour are being provided by Oram Sarsefields GAA Club, students and staff from Scoil Phadraig, Oram, the Art Mooney Childcare Centre and other organisations.
Burial will take place after the Mass in the adjoining cemetery.
As the Church has a limited capacity of 200 seats, attendance inside the Church is strictly reserved for family, relatives and close friends only.
A public address system is in place to relay the Mass to those attending outside the church.
The music for today’s liturgy is led by Marie Fox (Church vocalist) and Martin McAllister (acoustic guitar).
As the coffin enters St Patrick’s Church, the Entrance hymn “The Clouds Veil” (Liam Lawton) will be sung.
Fr Creelman will then invite the representatives of Uactarán na hÉireann and An Taoiseach to extend sympathy to the family.
Before the liturgy begins, symbols which represent the many positive qualities of Tom’s earthly life will be brought forward.
His grandson Stephen will bring forward an Oram GAA flag. Tom played for Oram for many years, winning a Junior double of Championship and League titles in 1963. He also played for Monaghan for a time and was a lifelong Monaghan GAA supporter.
His nephew Jerome McBride brings forward Tom’s Golden Disc, a visible and tangible symbol of Tom’s success in music and in sales of his records.
Tanya King, a niece of Tom’s late wife Rose, will bring forward a tractor, representing Tom’s love of agriculture and vintage machinery.
Glenn Forde, a grandson of Tom, will carry a guitar to the sanctuary – another great symbol of the king of country music.
Conor Duffy, Tom’s grandson, brings forward a fishing rod, representing another of Tom’s great loves in life.
The love of Tom’s life was his late wife Rose and their entire family. Granddaughters Alisha Forde and Amelia McBride carry forward some family photos to represent what was really at the core of the life of Tom McBride – his family.
The First Reading ‘The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God…’ will be read by Jason Duffy (grandson).
The psalm 'On Eagles Wings' will be led by Marie Fox and responded to by all.
The Second Reading ‘Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us…’ will be read by Deirdre Davis (niece).
The Gospel will be read by Fr Creelman from John 14:1-6 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.’
Homily by Fr Creelman
Today we gather in this quaint little church of St Patrick’s in Oram, on another difficult and sad day for a local family, on a difficult and sad day for this parish, for the local community, for the world of country music and for many, many people throughout our country and beyond. We come here together in such large numbers to show our support and sympathy to the family of Tom McBride, on the loss of a loving father, grandfather, uncle, brother, neighbour and friend.
Today is a heart-breaking replay of events for the McBride family since just less than 80 days ago, we were here in this same church for the funeral of Tom’s devoted and beloved wife Rose. To lose one parent is heart breaking, but Thomas, Dermot, Aishling and Siobhan, to lose both parents within a matter of months, we just can’t begin to imagine the sense of grief, sadness or emptiness that you must feel at this time.
In such circumstances we can question God. Our faith can be put to the test. We can ask if there is something beyond this earthly life at all. Is there a place after death where we will be united again with our loved ones? We can question, but one thing we can be certain of, for each and every one here; death comes to us all, at a time and on a date known only to God.
In the Gospel I have just read, Jesus was speaking to His disciples at the Last Supper. Although they were unaware of His impending death, Jesus knew that He was about to leave them. He knew that He had to leave them, He had to die, so that He could rise from the dead and so give all who trust in Him the promise of life eternal.
His words to the disciples are spoken today to those who grieve, to give hope that if we trust Him and follow Him in this life then He will come back and bring us, His disciples to that promised place. Jesus said:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return and take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.
I am hoping that these words will be a comfort to his family. Tom heard these very words of Jesus when the same Gospel was read at Rose’s funeral. And these same words could very well be put on the lips of Rose after her own death, as she called Tom back home to God.
I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return and take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.
When Rose died a massive part of Tom went with her. He was lost, dazed and broken hearted. Big Tom was the face and voice that everyone seen and heard, but Rose was the engine behind his success. In the background, she was the grounding mechanism, the compass and the refuge needed, to one of the most popular Irish country singing stars of our times.
Tom and Rose were a partnership that worked; an example of where each spouse cared for the other more than for themselves. They bear witness and testimony to a selfless love and bond that is possible within marriage, like a match made in heaven. A glimmer of comfort is perhaps God was merciful in allowing Tom to be united so quickly again with his beloved Rose.
At this requiem Mass we gather around the Eucharistic table, to give thanks to God for the life of Tom McBride, grateful for what he did for so many people in different ways, his actions and kind gestures, some small others big, and quite a few known only to those who benefited from his generous spirit and friendship.
Big Tom had an amazing presence when he walked into a room or onto a stage. He was a man big in stature, matched up with an even bigger heart. Despite all his success and fame, he always remained humble and down to earth and first and foremost a family man.
I could dwell on his professional career, on his undoubted success and popularity in the Irish country music scene. He was referred to as a legend, a giant, an icon, a king, labels often liberally thrown out about others, but titles that Big Tom richly deserved and earned after decades of success in the country music scene, culminating with a lifetime achievement award at the Irish Country Music Awards in 2016.
In the wake of his death many television programmes and papers will rightly concentrate on Big Tom the country star. But today, in this place he called home, we focus on Tom the family man, the ordinary man, a man very much down to earth. And it was the earth of this place Oram, County Monaghan that kept Tom McBride grounded. He loved this place. He loved his home; he loved his family; he loved the land. Locals here would often see Tom travelling round the little roads on his quad. Not only see him but hear him too, as that noisy exhaust never seemed to get fixed.
But that was where Tom seemed to be the happiest, out and about, whether counting rabbits in the field or cutting ivy away from choking a tree. He loved the land, out on the old tractor ploughing or spraying the spuds, other times he was in the garden with the vegetables and flowers. Sometimes the outside came in, along with the associated smells, as he would lovingly incubate chick eggs in the good front room of the house, something that drove Rose mad.
Tom had a healthy interest in vintage tractors and all things old. He would never throw anything out. He had great patience and determination to master anything he put his hand to. He was a golfer with a handicap at one time as low as 9. He was a footballer both as a county player and for Oram. He captained the Oram junior team in 1963 to a winning double.
He would water ski and was the first to have a speed boat in Lough Muckno, falling off many times, quickly getting to know every stone in the water. At other times he enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of the same lake when he would fly fish, even tying his own flies. He played snooker and was an avid reader, watched wildlife programmes and John Wayne westerns. All very simple and ordinary things. Most of all Tom was a family man, a much-loved husband, father, grandfather and uncle, the family were all very proud of.
Tom and Rose married 52 years ago and eventually moved back to Rose’s home house to look after her parents. There Tom and Rose would spend the rest of their married life together. Their home was always open and welcoming, a home where they raised their family. The kids were always used to a house full of people, a place where the kettle was never off, a stop off for many friends and neighbours just passing by.
Tom had a great sense of humour and was very quick witted, delivered usually in his own inimitable way. The family told me of one instance when Rose was getting dressed up in her finest, a dress rehearsal for an upcoming wedding. As she appeared in the kitchen and asked for an opinion, resplendent in a beautiful hat, feathers and all, Tom as quick as lighting pipes up, “It’s a terror what you see when you haven’t got your gun.’
Stories like these will hopefully help the family to look back and to give thanks for Tom the family man, the ordinary man. Laughter and reminiscing can help balance out the sadness and tears. Faith and trust in a loving and merciful God can bring us hope that our loved ones are in a better place.
The readings picked by his family for this funeral Mass, reflect their hope and faith that Tom is now at peace with God. In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom we hear…they who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy awaits those he has chosen.
Tom McBride was chosen by God and gifted with many talents and abilities. These he shared generously with many people including those who have travelled here to be with his family today. We thank God for knowing Tom McBride in whatever capacity that may be; family, friend or neighbour. Or in his professional career, for those who have sung with him, played alongside him, admired him and listened to his music.
This earthly world and our lives have been a richer and happier place because of him. His passing will leave a void both for his family and friends and for the Irish country music scene. Our prayer is that Big Tom McBride will be carried now by the angels to the heavenly choir.
May he be forgiven for any failings in this life and may he find a place prepared for him along with his beloved wife Rose. May he be at rest and at home with all the faithful departed and our Lord Jesus in His Father’s house.
May the angels lead the soul of Tom McBride into paradise; May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Prayers of the Faithful
The Prayer of the Faithful will be led by Amy McBride (granddaughter), Ryan Davis (grandnephew), Lisa King (niece of Rose), Ciaran McBride (grandson), Gavin Duffy (grandson) and Rosie King (niece of Rose).
During the Offertory Procession, the gifts of bread and wine are presented by Susan Kavanagh (niece), Rita McBride and Rita Bogdanova (daughters-in-law). The hymn 'As I kneel before you' will be sung.
Communion hymns, meanwhile, include: 'A Mhuire Mhathair', 'Ave Maria' and 'Lady of Knock'; while, the Communion Reflection will be 'May the Road Rise' (an Irish blessing).
The Mass concludes with the final commendation. Hymns and music will accompany the family and congregation as the coffin is carried from the church.
Hymn accompanying procession to the place of rest: ‘The Old Rugged Cross’.
Big Tom McBride will be laid to rest in the family plot beside his late wife Rose.
After the final blessing, members of the Mainliners band will pay tribute to Big Tom by singing some of their well-known songs, including 'Gentle Mother'.
Mr Jim O’Neill, representing the Oram community will then deliver an oration.
The immediate family will then be taken to the avenue near the front gate of the church where there will be an opportunity for people to sympathise.
Meanwhile, tonight's Late Late Show, which was due to be the Country Special, will pay a special tribute to 'Big Tom' with Daniel O'Donnell and Nathan Carter and a host of Country music stars. It airs on RTE1 from 9:35pm.