LEGENDARY Irish country music singer Big Tom McBride has sadly passed away aged 81, his family have confirmed.

The showband leader, best-known as frontman of Big Tom and the Mainliners, died in the early hours of this morning.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear father Big Tom McBride (RIP) this morning,” a statement on the singer’s official Facebook page said.

“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.”

Big Tom’s death comes just months after his beloved wife Rose passed away in late January.

The singer had suffered health problems over the years and was previously hospitalised in 2006 after suffering a heart attack.

Nevertheless, the 1960’s showband legend had been playing live shows up until very recently and remained ‘Ireland’s king of country music’ in the eyes of fans across Ireland.

Tom 1

‘Big Tom’ had suffered with health problems over the years and was previously hospitalised in 2006 after suffering a heart attack.

He leaves behind four children. Tom’s wife of more than 50 years Rose died in February.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he was “very saddened” to hear of the death of Big Tom.

“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,” Mr Varadkar said.

He added: “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.”

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Crooner Daniel O’Donnell spoke about his relationship with the late singer, saying that Tom’s music connected the Irish diaspora over the years.

“He reached out to people in Ireland, and those who had emigrated from Ireland  In the days so many people lived in England and their connection with home was all the music and dances at the weekend. He meant so much to people and so much to the country singers in Ireland,” he told RTE Radio One.

“He will be missed so, so much. He was the greatest.”

O’Donnell said he believes Tom’s health deteriorated after his wife’s passing.

“It’s just so sad,” he said on RTE Radio One. “On the other hand, he was probably heartbroken without his wife, Rose. Maybe for him, it’s a gift from God.

“His family, I’m sure they are just devastated at his passing.

“I’m sure since Rose died, his life was darker. Every step Tom took, Rose was a step behind him.

“I can’t assume anything, only there is a great reunion in heaven today.”