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“Kathleen had been up early that morning and had given the wee ones a bath and dried their hair. She had made a shopping list and then went to wash her hair before going to SuperValu with Trish. The list is still on the table"
Heartbroken star Daniel O’Donnell yesterday paid tribute to his beloved sister, Kathleen, who died suddenly at the family home on Friday morning.
The Irish singer had a close bond with his sister, who at 67 was the third-eldest in their family of five from Kincasslagh, Co. Donegal.
Daniel told how Kathleen had been like a mother to him through the years and was one of his biggest supporters.
“If Kathleen was in your corner you didn’t need an army,” Daniel yesterday told the Sunday World.
The hugely popular entertainer said he is still trying to come to terms with Kathleen’s sudden passing from a suspected massive heart attack.
“Our entire family is in shock because it was so sudden,” Daniel said. “Trish (Kathleen’s daughter) and her young children had been staying with Kathleen and her husband, John, for a couple of days.
“Kathleen had been up early that morning and had given the wee ones a bath and dried their hair. She had made a shopping list and then went to wash her hair before going to SuperValu with Trish. The list is still on the table.
“It happened so quickly, there was no warning. Kathleen hadn’t been sick. She was well that morning, doing normal things. That’s why it’s so hard to take in.”
Daniel told how Kathleen had been at the centre of their family. “When she got married to John in 1979, they moved into the family home and our mother lived with them until she died,” he said.
“When I would phone, Kathleen would have all the news and she would keep you up to date on everything.”
It was Kathleen and her husband, John, who drove Daniel to Big Tom’s Recording Studios in Castleblaney on February 9, 1983 – 40 years ago this coming Thursday – to record his first songs that included My Donegal Shore and Stand Beside Me.
After he became one of the country’s biggest stars, Daniel bought The Viking House Hotel in Kincasslagh.
“Kathleen and John ran the Viking, she was so involved with everything I did down through the years,” he said.
During the years that Daniel held a tea party at his home for visitors to the Mary from Dungloe Festival, Kathleen was always on hand making tea for her brother’s fans. On one occasion she reckoned that she poured 1,200 cups!
For many years, Kathleen also played a leading role in their local Kincasslagh festival, where the main feature was a surprise guest for Daniel at the ‘Belle of the Ball.’
Through the decades, Kathleen brought luminaries such as American country legend Loretta Lynn, Coronation Street’s Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth) and, later, when Daniel had married, British pop superstar Cliff Richard, to his Co. Donegal village.
“Kathleen was always very supportive, I don’t think she missed anything I ever did around home and further afield,” he said yesterday.
“She had endless energy and would go to the ends of the earth for me. Recently, when I said I was going to Cresslough to sing at the Mass, she was there ready for the road to take me. If I had to go to Dublin afterwards, she would go to Dublin with me, if I needed the drive.
“Of course, if you needed to be told off about something there was no better woman, too!”
Daniel reveals that Kathleen’s greatest joy in recent years was her role as a grandmother.
“Just like my mother was with her grandchildren, Kathleen’s grandchildren were everything to her,” he says.
Kathleen’s funeral Mass will take place at 11am tomorrow in St Mary’s Church, Kincasslagh.
She is survived by her husband, John, daughters Trish and Fiona, sons John Francis and Daniel, sisters Margaret (Margo), brothers John, James and Daniel, grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and extended family.