Country music singer 'Big Tom' dies aged 81

He was the first person inducted into Ireland's Country Music Hall Of Fame

Country music singer 'Big Tom' dies aged 81

Image: bigtomcountry.com

Updated: 11.30

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is leading tributes to Irish country music star 'Big Tom' McBride.

He has died at the age of 81.

McBride, from Co Monaghan, is best known for hits including 'Four Country Roads', 'Back To Castleblayney' and ‘The Old Rustic Bridge’.

The Mainliners frontman became the first person to be inducted into Ireland's Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2016.

In a post 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 new him.

"May he rest in peace".

In 1965, he and six others formed the Mainliners and began playing local venues.

In May 1966, McBride (who also played the saxophone) appeared on RTÉ's 'Showband Show' singing 'Gentle Mother' and his career was launched.

Released as a single, the song quickly became one of the biggest-selling records of all time in Ireland.

From that point until 1978, Big Tom And The Mainliners toured extensively both in Ireland and the UK.

They recorded numerous albums and had hits with such songs as 'Old Log Cabin For Sale', 'Broken Marriage Vows' and 'The Sunset Years Of Life'.

He left the Mainliners in the late 1970s to front his own band, The Travellers, and John Glenn became lead singer with the Mainliners.

'Big Tom' McBride pictured in Dublin in 1998 | Image: Rollingnews.ie

In a statement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 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.

"With his band the Mainliners, he filled dance halls the length and breadth of the country.

"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. I want to extend my condolences to his family and his huge army of fans."

'Big Tom' McBride pictured in Dublin in 1998 | Image: Rollingnews.ie

Paying tribute, President Michael D Higgins said: "Lovers and supporters of Irish music everywhere will have heard the news of the death of 'Big Tom' McBride with sadness.

"As one of the most charismatic and influential artists in Irish country music, Big Tom was widely respected and through his five decades of music making he leaves a lasting legacy.

"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.

"As President of Ireland, I wish to express my deepest sympathies to his children Thomas, Dermot, Aisling and Siobhan, the members of his family, his friends and to the countless numbers of people, at home and abroad who loved the man and his music."