The Night Big Tom Came to Town
Last October’s Late Late with Ryan Tubridy must have brought back memories for many of the country and Irish days that are now making another comeback. Who better to personify those days than Big Tom Mc Bride from Castleblayney and what a reception he received when he appeared at the end of the show a few weeks back. On the 18th September 2016 Big Tom marked his eightieth Birthday a major milestone in an illustrious career at the top of Irish Country Music.
Tom is now undisputedly the King of Country Music ain Ireland and he is a living legend who reached 80 years young on 18th September this year. He made his fame with the Mighty Mainliners from Oram, Castleblayney and they set out on the road to stardom during the Show band era when they appeared on the Show band show on RTE on the 21 May 1966 and they had a top ten hit with the song they performed that night in November 1967 Gentle Mother.
Big Tom had a total of 19 songs in the charts between 1967 and 1989 and the more successful songs included Old Log cabin for Sale, Old Love Letters, Sunset years of life, Broken Marriage Vows, I Love You Still, Four Country Roads and Streets of Dublin City to mention but a few.
He enjoyed some good years with the mainliners until he left to form his own band the Travellers and they enjoyed a great deal of success in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and they disbanded in the late 1980’s when Big Tom was reunited with the Mainliners and they have played together since despite increasing age and deaths among its members.
Tom was starting out on the road to stardom when he appeared in The Grove Ballroom here in Bonniconlon twice in 1967 the first hall in Mayo he appeared in April and November 1967. The ads in the Western People tell us that he was in The Grove on the 26th April 1967 and the 23rd November 1967 – two big nights in the dancing calendar for fans and dancers who frequented the hall in its heyday during the 1960’s – the hall first opened on the 20th May 1951 to the sounds of Ballina’s Jack Ruane Orchestra. Bonniconlon was the first area in Mayo where Tom played and this is one for the history books.
Paddy Moran and John James Greavy were the managers of the Grove when Big Tom came there and they saw him in a nearby hall probably the Marine in Enniscrone and contacted the manager of the Mainliners John McCormack. A price of £50 was agreed for the dance in April and there was a huge crowd there for the dance many a person has recalled for this writer since how they remember cycling in the spring evening to see Big Tom. It would be a winter night when he returned.
Paddy Moran recalls that John McCormack asked for £100 for that second dance. On both occasions they were given hospitality in Oatlands House by Patsy O’ Kane and then made their way to the hall for the dance.
Big Tom came back to Bonniconlon for the next dance over thirty years later said Paddy in September 1999 and they reminisced on the night that Tom played for the first time in Co. Mayo in 1967 at the height of the Show band and ballroom era. Best wishes to Tom and the Mainliners on this his eightieth birthday.