FAMED Limerick entertainer Tom O’Donnell, one half of comedy duo Tom and Paschal who played in New York’s Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall over a storied career, has died.
Mr O’Donnell, 88, passed away at the weekend in his home on Ballinacurra Road and his death has been described as “end of an era” by long-time collaborator Paschal O’Grady.
The duo, who began their comedy-double act in 1959 but had in fact met in the mid-1940s, were loved and feted across the nation as a comedy double-act that had few parallels over a career that spanned over four decades.
Paschal said news of Tom’s death had come as a “shock” but was quick to pay tribute to the Janesboro man.
“It is the end of an era, another page turned in the history of Limerick entertainment,” he said. “I first met Tom in the scouts in 1945. He was a personality, a great character, and we got on very well.”
The duo first performed their by-now legendary Christmas Crackers show in the Mechanics Institute in 1959 before being booked by Jack Bourke for his City Theatre - a run that would later bring them to stages around the world and national fame.
“They were great times,” said Paschal. “If we had been even three or four years earlier or later, we might not have gotten in, because it was just that changeover and we were caught between traditional and new showbusiness and had to adapt to that.
“We did set the field, I think Tom was the first to professionalise the business. He will be sadly missed because he was a character and the two of us, people would be saying if we were going downtown ‘what are they up to now?’” he laughed.
Speaking to sister paper the Limerick Leader in 2011, Tom said he “couldn’t identify” with today’s comedians or the language they used.
“Our humour was clean and clever and appealed to young and old,” he said.
Mr O’Donnell is survived by his nephews and nieces.
His nephew, John O’Donnell, told the Limerick Chronicle that his uncle would be “badly missed”.
“He will be sorely missed in the entertainment world, he lived his life to the full. He was greatly loved around Limerick and the country,” said John.
A self-confessed soccer-fanatic, Tom played on the wing for Pike Rovers and later went on to become chairman of the club, as well as playing rugby with Young Munster.
He will repose in Thompson’s this Tuesday from 5.30pm-7pm, before mass in the Dominican Church, with funeral mass at 10.30am on Wednesday. Burial in Mount Saint Lawerence extension.