Sadness in Limerick at passing of ‘gentle giant’ Big Tom

Áine Fitzgerald


Áine Fitzgerald


Sadness in Limerick at passing of ‘gentle giant’ Big Tom

Big Tom McBride, centre, with his band The Mainliners was a hugely popular figure in Limerick and played here several times

A GENTLE giant in every sense of the word, is how “King of Country”  Big Tom McBride was remembered in Limerick this week.

The entertainer from Oram, just outside Castleblayney, Co Monaghan passed away on Tuesday morning. He was aged 81.

His funeral takes place this Friday.

“Tom McBride was a gentle giant in every sense of the word. He was very quiet and unassuming but had a nice easy going sense of humour, just the same,” recalls former Limerick Leader staff man John Barrett  who promoted Big Tom at a number of dances in venues like the Glentworth Hotel, the Greenwood Inn, Ardpatrick and Greenhills Hotel on the Ennis Road during the 1990s.

“There was one very special night in later years at the Greenhills. That was after Big Tom released his last major hit, Going Out the Same Way You Came In,” John remembers.

“We arrived early to look after the ticket sales, only to find a queue right out the door into the car park even at that stage.”

The atmosphere was “absolutely electric” in the ballroom as Big Tom took to the stage, ushered through a packed crowd by his manager, Kevin McCooey.

“We had many memorable nights at the Greenhills with all the top acts like Mike Denver, Declan Nerney and many more but that one stands out as the very best,” John adds.

Dancehalls like the Oyster in Dromkeen and the Olympic, Newcastle West were invariably packed for the visit of the Castleblayney country music star.

“There wasn’t a ballroom in the country Big Tom did not play in,” continued Pat C Fitzgerald of Croom.

“He played in the Jetland, the Savoy, Dromkeen and the Olympic and also the festivals of the county -  Croom, Kilfinane and Castlemahon. He was an icon to the dance goers and music enthusiasts for 50 years,” he added.

Limerick folk abroad had a special regard for the singer who frequented the Irish centres especially the Galtymore in Cricklewood, London.