The night Big Tom came to Laois

Pat Delaney

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Pat Delaney

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

The night Big Tom came to Laois

Big Tom

August 28th 1973 is a date that lives in the memory of people of that generation. 

It was the day and the night that Big Tom came to Camross. The biggest music attraction in the world of Country Music at the time was indisputably Big Tom and the Mainliners and he and his entourage arrived in Camross at 6pm.

The Camross Parish was raising finance to build the new Church at the time, and held a music festival to raise funds. 

For a rural parish like Camross to secure a man of his stature was a major coup. Big Tom was a hugely religious man and in his early years did the fast in Pettigo in County Donegal where he encountered many of his greatest fans. He was also a big GAA follower and later remarked he had often heard the name of Camross and their achievements on the playing fields.

When the Church was opened three years later it was said the money from the festival had made a huge contribution to the outstanding £22,000.

The festival had opened with Pat Ely eleven days earlier and Hugo Duncan appeared on August 24th, but all the talk was about the King himself and, from early evening, crowds were gathering in anticipation. The queues were as far back as Ballaghmore, Borris-in-Ossory and Clonenagh. Admission to the marquee was sixty old pence, but there was long delays gaining entry.

When eventually the big man took the stage bodies were crammed under the stage. Patrons were aged from 20 to 80 plus. When Henry McMahon sounded the saxophone, Big Tom burst on to the stage with song 'The Sunset Years of Life' followed later by 'The Country Hall of fame, 'The old Rustic Bridge' and 'A Bunch of Violets Blue' and many more.

After 2am patrons went home but they would recall this night for many years. Sadly Tom passed away last Tuesday and was laid to rest beside his wife Rose who predeceased him last January. Huge crowds lined the Village of Oram on Friday as his cortege left St Patrick’s Church after Requiem Mass concelebrated by Fr Brian Darcy.