Irish country star Gene Stuart dies following illness

Country singer Gene Stuart
Country singer Gene Stuart

COUNTRY music star Gene Stuart has died at his Co Tyrone home following a short illness.

The grandfather and father-of-three, from Killeeshill near Dungannon, died yesterday surrounded by his family.

The musician, who was in his early seventies, had a hugely successful career spanning more than 40 years.

Mr Stuart, also known as Gene Stewart, worked on building sites in England and as a photographer for the Dungannon Observer before he got his big break as a singer with the Mighty Avons in 1969.

He later former his own band, Gene Stuart and The Homesteaders.

He toured widely, producing 20 albums, including one recorded in Nashville, and several singles.

Warm tributes were paid to Mr Stuart last night from his fellow musicians and country singers.

Co Donegal singer Margo O'Donnell described him as "one of life's gentlemen".

Country star Nathan Carter said Mr Stuart was a "legend of Irish country music".

Singer Crawford Bell, from Carryduff, said Mr Stuart had battled cancer.

"He will be sorely missed by all his friends in music," he wrote on Facebook.

"Our lives were enhanced by his friendship, his 'down to earth' approach to his fame, his great and unique sense of humour and by his great country voice. Our thoughts and our prayers are with (his wife) Breige and all the family at this sad sad time. Gene will live on in our hearts through his music and our memories of a great man. Rest in peace Gene."

Requiem Mass will be celebrated at St Patrick's Church, Aughnagar, at 1pm on Sunday, followed by burial in the adjoining cemetery.

Mr Stuart is survived by his wife Briege, children Barry, Karen and Colin, grandchildren and wider family circle.