DANIEL O’Donnell has led glowing tributes to Irish country music legend Big Tom McBride who passed away this morning aged 81.
The Mainliners frontman's death came just months after the passing of his beloved wife, Rose.
McBride's children announced the sad news on Facebook earlier, writing: “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".
Fellow crooner O'Donnell spoke to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1 this morning and said he'd been left “speechless” following Big Tom's death.
“He was probably heartbroken without Rose and maybe it was a gift from God," O'Donnell said.
“His family I’m sure are just devastated. It’s just so sad. I’m just speechless.
“He was from the era of the huge country music stars in Ireland, he was the pillar, we all referred to him as the king".
O'Donnell added that Big Tom was "such a connection" for people that had left the country.
Very sad to hear of death of Big Tom. A giant of Irish country music for over 50 years, filling dance halls everywhere. Our sympathies and condolences to his family, friends and fans.
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) April 17, 2018
Big Tom McBride a lovely man RIP, deepest sympathies to his family. https://t.co/0yBiiUMkil
— Barry McGuigan (@ClonesCyclone) April 17, 2018
Shocked and truly saddened to hear of the passing of Big Tom this morning. Ireland’s King of Country Music for so many years and his legacy will live on for many years to come. My sincere condolences go out to all of his family and friends at this terrible time. RIP ❤️ pic.twitter.com/tkgbO2laH0
— Lisa McHugh (@LisaMcHughx) April 17, 2018
He said: “He reached out to people in Ireland and those people who had immigrated from Ireland in the days when so many people live in England and their whole connection with Ireland was the bands on the weekend in the national the forum, and the Galtymore and all the dance around London, Manchester and Birmingham.
“He was just terrific. Big Tom was the one that everybody saw as the main man.
“There’s people who have presence and Big Tom had it in abundance when he walked into the room. There’s no words to express it.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also paid tribute today, calling Big Tom a “giant in country music”.
He added: “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.”
Former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan sent his sympathies to the McBride family earlier.
He tweeted: “Big Tom McBride a lovely man RIP, deepest sympathies to his family.”
Meanwhile, country singer Lisa McHugh said she was “shocked and truly saddened.”
She tweeted: “Shocked and truly saddened to hear of the passing of Big Tom this morning.
“Ireland’s King of Country Music for so many years and his legacy will live on for many years to come."