Northern Ireland news

Tributes as Co Tyrone country singer Brian Coll dies

Brian Coll, second from right, was among the artists who joined Philomena Begley on Hugo Duncan's BBC roadshow to mark her 50th anniversary in show business.

ONE of Ireland's best-loved country music stars has been remembered as a "world class" singer.

Brian Coll, from Omagh, Co Tyrone, passed away on Saturday after a musical career dating back to the early 1960s.

It has been reported that the 79-year-old suffered a heart attack.

Broadcaster and Passionist priest Fr Brian D'Arcy said he was "heartbroken" to learn of his death, describing him as "a lifelong friend and world class country singer".

"He and Pio are together again," he tweeted, a reference to Mr Coll's friend and former band member Pio McCann, also from Co Tyrone, who died last month.

Fr D'Arcy told the Sunday World that Mr Coll had the potential to be a global star but had chosen to base himself in Ireland.

"I was in Nashville with Brian and Ray Lynam in 1972. George Jones wanted Ray Lynam to stay there and be a big singer, and Charley Pride wanted Brian Coll to base himself there," he said.

"Charlie offered Brian any money to stay, saying 'If you stay here for six months you'll be a massive star'.

"But both or them were married and had families at home, so they chose to stay in Ireland... Brian was one of those singers who should have been bigger."

Irish country singer Mike Denver tweeted: "RIP Brian Coll. One of the greats. I had the great privilege of touring with Brian a few years back. A pure gentleman."

Sinn Féin Omagh councillor and former MP Barry McElduff described Mr Coll as a "music legend who was synonymous with Omagh. Loved by people all over Ireland and beyond".

He said: "I enjoyed many engaging conversations with Brian. My late mother loved listening to his records. We are poorer for his loss."

Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer tweeted: "RIP Brian Coll. You were a gentleman and a great ambassador for our town, county and country."

Mr Coll was a member of the Polka Dots and the Plattermen, one of Ireland's most enduring showbands, before starting his own band, the Buckaroos, in 1968.

According to the website, the band made their debut in the Astoria Ballroom in Bundoran, Co Donegal on June 9 that year "and were an immediate hit with the dancing public".

The original line-up included Brian Coll on vocals and Pio McCann on bass.

Among the many highlights of Mr Coll's career was the band's appearance in 1969 in the world-famous Carnegie Hall in New York alongside top American country stars Johnny Cash and Buck Owens.

He was also a huge motorcycling enthusiast and a dedicated supporter of the late world champion biker Joey Dunlop.

The Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club tweeted its sympatgues, describing him as "an icon of the showband era and a great supporter of motorcycle racing over the years. Sending our deepest sympathy to Brian's friends and family circle".

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