Claire Malone toured the world for 10 years with The Commitments band, and supporting the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Arrested Development and Lou Reed.
But the biggest event of her life was due to take place last Tuesday, her wedding day, and the one person she wanted most at it was her beloved dad John.
John (78), from Roscrea Co Tipperary and now living in Drumcondra, north Dublin, is currently getting treatment in the Mater Private hospital in the capital for stage four cancer.
Claire was due to marry the love of her life, Paddy Lynn, who is also the father of their two children, son Maverick, three, and daughter Teddi aged one.
The couple arranged for a ceremony at the beautiful Seagrave Barn in Togher, in Co Louth, which was convenient as they live nearby.
“We had been doing everything possible to get my dad there,” explains Claire.
“My dad is my best friend. We have a very unique relationship. We spend a lot of time together.
“Every single thing I had been doing was to try and get him to my wedding.. I wrecked doctors’ heads. He is in and out and I absolutely drive them all crazy, we know them all so well.
“But it was all about getting my dad well for the day, and sure then he went in to hospital on the Saturday before, then I was at the venue on the Monday. It was all set, we were going to get him out on the Tuesday morning, he was in to get another blood transfusion.”
She had also made sure to take every precaution to protect her frail dad.
“We had sent out an email on the Friday to everybody to do antigens, so there would be no Covid,” she explains.
“In fact we lost about 30 guests because of Covid in the five days going up to it, which was so disappointing, but I thought ‘this is the right thing to do anyway’”.
Claire woke early that Tuesday morning, July 12.
“I woke up at about 5.30am I couldn’t breathe, I was just so anxious about the morning and the day ahead,” she recollects.
At 8.40am she got a call from the hospital.
“They told it wasn’t safe for him to go to the wedding because he kept clotting and he kept losing blood, so it wasn’t safe for him to go,” she sighs.
“I just fell on the floor. I couldn’t get up, couldn’t stop crying.
“All I talked about going up to the wedding, was for him to give me away. In my speech was ‘my biggest wish for today was for you to talk me down the aisle, and it has come through’.”
Claire’s mum Lorraine passed away 14 years ago, and she has just one sibling, Niall.
“For three hours I was literally on the floor crying. I went out into the woods on my own, talking out loud, praying to my mam, trying to manifest it so that it would happen. Then it just didn’t, I fell apart,” she reflects.
She then had to make the decision whether the outdoor wedding was to go ahead or not.
“Literally about an hour and a half, two hours before I just had to make a decision. I either get on with this now,” she confirms.
She then came up with a plan.
“The guys who run the venue, they put a WiFi pod thing in the woods so that we would have a signal,” she beams. “My sister-in-law Geraldine, she had her phone up, and my dad sat with one of the nurses in the Mater Private, and he could watch it.”
She also got a lovely replacement to walk her down the aisle.
“My mam’s two cousins, Attracta and Marion, I was giving them a poem to read. So they came into the house to me, and I always feel my mam when they are around, so while we were getting a photograph taken I just looked at them and said ‘will youse walk me down the aisle, and the both of them burst into tears, so everybody was bawling for a good 45 minutes. So, they walked me down.”
During the ceremony her celebrant Karen kept in touch with her dad over the phone.
“I also kept on going over to the phone saying ‘I love you dad’. A microphone was put up and he said back ‘I know you do’. Everybody was bawling and I sang.
“It ended up being the most emotional day of my life, but it was just magical.”
The next day they continued the celebrations and got home on Thursday.
On Friday morning Claire and Paddy and their two children travelled to the Mater hospital.
“I had got onto the hospital and said ‘I want my dad to see me’. So, they said ‘you can come in here, we will organise a day room and all that’,” she notes
“So, we went in and got changed into our wedding clothes and they brought dad out of his room into the day room and all the nurses were standing behind him, with him looking at my wedding dress.
“Everyone was crying, it was so bloody emotional, and he was just beaming, while he held up my hand to look at my wedding ring.”
Claire took on Imelda May’s role in The Commitments band, which was originally played by Angeline Ball.
Original stars such as Dick Maskey, Ken McCluskey and Michael Ahern were regular members of the outside, with singer Joe Walsh standing in for Andrew Strong.
“One of our best moments was performing on St Patrick’s Day in the White House for George Bush,” admits Claire.
“We toured the world It was us, we are not trying to be anybody. I look back I thought ‘is that my life, traveling the world’.”
Claire now sings in a band called Gossip.
“We are flat out now after two years of doing nothing because of Covid,” she adds. “We do ceremony music for weddings and funerals. We do everything from Adele to Guns ‘N Roses.”