IT was with much sadness that the Irish community of Glasgow packed into St. Paul’s Church, Shettleston on Friday 21 March to say their farewells to George Donaldson, who died suddenly of a heart attack on March 12.
One of nine children, the East End raised musician started his singing career in local pubs and clubs and had been the resident singer in Jinty McGuinty’s for the last 20 years.
His talent and voice, with a warmth and brogue for ballad singing, saw George travel throughout Scotland and the islands bringing his songs to the people.
His interaction with his audience whilst playing was renowned, stemming from his great love and fondness for “real people”.
In 2007 he became one of the original members, and only Scotsman, of Celtic Thunder, completing several tours of North America to packed concert halls. George recently completed his first solo album and was preparing for Celtic Thunder’s forthcoming Australian tour.
George was a family man and is survived by his wife Carolyn and 13 year old daughter Sarah.
He had referred to his family as the “light of my life” and could often be found on Twitter, tweeting about Carolyn and Sarah and how he missed them during tours with Celtic Thunder. His last tweet was about a night in, watching Harry Potter with Sarah.
Over the past four years Sarah has been attending St. Roch’s evening sessions to practise traditional Irish music with the Glasgow Irish Minstrels, a branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the parent organisation for the St Roch’s Céilí Band.
George was delighted that Sarah was playing with St Roch’s and enjoyed jamming with his girl when he was home from his travels. He was delighted that she had such a great platform as St Roch's and he knew she loved playing.
Lyn Crumlish, PRO St Roch’s, said: “Unfortunately we didn’t see too much of George because of his musical commitments across the water, however, when he was around he would play at our concerts and family ceilidhs.
"He was just a very ordinary, friendly guy who would chat to everyone and took a real interest in how all the kids were progressing.”
George accompanied Sarah and Carolyn to the All Ireland Fleadh in Derry city last summer and he jammed the night away with all the St Roch's mums, dads and kids into the wee small hours.
Lyn commented: "Such was his down to earth character that he would never boast of his success within the music scene. In fact one of the parents commented to him that he should seriously think of taking up singing as a career.
"I would like to think that George can rest well in the knowledge that Sarah has been left in great musical hands and I know she will continue to do her wonderful Dad very proud.”
Glasgow City Councillor Feargal Dalton said: “When I first moved to Glasgow 20 years ago George had just started out as the resident singer in Jinty’s. Like many new and old Irish in the city, Wednesday and Sunday nights became ‘Big George at Jinty’s’ nights. He was part of how I settled in my new home town.
"We were all delighted to see George’s increasing success with Celtic Thunder. But following his most recent tour he was up at St Roch’s on Tuesday nights letting us all know that he was back in Jinty’s on Sundays. I got down to see him in Jinty’s recently, not realising it would be the last time.
"Despite singing to large crowds around the world he loved being back in his natural setting in the corner of Jinty’s enjoying the craic with the locals. While we will always remember his music, those of us privileged to have known George know that, above all else, he was a family man and his greatest love and pride were reserved for Carolyn and Sarah.”