DANIEL O’DONNELL has paid a very special tribute to one of his biggest fans by singing over the phone during their socially distanced funeral.
While Covid-19 restrictions prevented many from attending the funeral of Margaret McCarthy from Innishannon, the Irish singer found a special way to pay his respects with a surprise performance at her graveside.
Margaret, who passed away at Marymount Hospice in Cork, was a huge fan of O’Donnell with her husband Jimmy often joking that there were “three in the marriage.”
So, when the Donegal singer learned of her death, he was eager to provide her family with something to smile about during an otherwise sad occasion.
"She (Margaret) was a lovely woman,” O’Donnell explained to Patricia Messinger on Cork’s C1O3FM.
“I knew the Mass was on and I was sitting and decided to watch it. I watched it and in [her daughter] Ann’s eulogy, she talked about how she (Margaret) liked my music and joked about her father having to fight with the fact that I was in their marriage too.
"The priest then talked about it and I was sitting and thinking maybe if I called the undertaker and asked him if I was able to sing when the service and the funeral was over, that maybe I could sing then over the phone.
“I didn’t know if it would work because I had never done that before. I suppose I was thinking if Margaret liked the music that much maybe it would give a wee lift to the family. It wasn’t premeditated or anything, just on the spur of the moment," he said.
O’Donnell was contacted by a friend of the family who asked if he would send a message of condolence. The singer went one step further, calling Margaret’s daughter Catherine to talk about her beloved mum.
A much-loved local figure, news of Margaret’s passing was keenly felt throughout much of the Innishannon community.
Remember for having a great smile, Margaret would have no doubt been delighted when traffic was stopped while the hearse containing her coffin made its way up the village’s Main Street.
Many of the locals may not have been there for the service but they made sure their presence was felt by lining the street for a fond farewell.
Originally, the plan was for O’Donnell’s song “Beyond the Rainbow’s End” to be played at her graveside but the singer went on better.
He told C1O3FM: "It brought a smile to a very sad occasion. That doesn’t take away any of the grief that they have. That is ongoing and the loss they have is incredible. Ann was saying that after putting your mother into the ground it’s an awful feeling. I know it’s what we do and it’s the way things are but it’s just awful at that time.
"And then you have to walk away and leave her there. Hopefully, it made some sort of an unexpected thing and maybe people talking about it diverts the grief a little."
After singing, O’Donnell shared a private moment with Margaret’s husband Jimmy.
Ann Phayer, Margaret’s daughter, who penned a wonderful eulogy to her mum for rip.ie described the encounter to the Irish Mirror.
"He had a few words with my father afterwards. Daniel said: 'Is that Jimmy?' He knew his name and everything, which was lovely. In the eulogy I said that there were 'three people in the marriage,' Daniel being the third. My father accepted her love for Daniel. It was a bit of fun," she said.
"My parents would have been fifty-five years married this September. He (Jimmy) was very emotional when he saw the condolence on RIP from Daniel (and Majella). He couldn't believe it. Then he found out that Daniel rang my sister. And then the graveside call. He was very good to the family."
A loving mother of four and grandmother of 11, Margaret will be remembered as someone who loved laughter, music and family.
While she will live on through the memories created during her lifetime, O’Donnell kind gesture ensured her family have one more treasured moment to look back on for years to come.
Ann adds that her mother, who died after a short illness, was a warm and loving mother and grandmother of 11.
"She was bubbly and full of fun. She loved the craic. She loved the family and the grandchildren and music and singing.
"She loved Daniel from the start of his career… She was mad about him. He is such a nice person. This was so kind of him,” Ann said.
"If my mother had gotten a phone call from Daniel when she was alive she would nearly have fainted! We are very grateful to him. It was very uplifting."