never forgotten | 

Tributes paid to showband star Brendan Bowyer as his ashes are buried in Waterford

The singer died in US in 2020 but Covid placed on hold his wish to be buried with parents until today
Brendan Bowyer RIP

Brendan Bowyer RIP

Ralph RiegelSunday World

Waterford paid an emotional tribute to local hero and showband legend Brendan Bowyer as his ashes were buried in his beloved home county.

The singer, who died aged 81 in 2020, was hailed as "a true son of Waterford" and "a proud ambassador for Ireland" as hundreds gathered to honour his memory.

Some of the fans who attended brought items of showband memorabilia dating back to the 1960s and 70s in memory of the hit maker.

Mr Bowyer, who sang with the Royal Showband and The Big Eight, died in the US, where he lived for a number of years, on May 28, 2020. However, he had always wanted to be buried in his native Waterford.

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted those funeral plans – but his devoted family were determined to honour his wishes and a special memorial mass was held in Waterford's Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Within today before his ashes were interred at the grave of his parents in Dunmore East.

In a moving tribute, Fr Brian Darcy read from a letter written by Bowyer's widow, Stella.

“We were together for 56 years,” Stella wrote.

"He had a self-deprecating sense of humour. He never took himself seriously. His reaction to life’s challenges was amazing. He was a wonderful travelling companion, an avid reader. A sports fanatic. He loved opera.

"And most of all he was a loving father, husband, grandfather, brother and entertainer. A man, a friend who will never be forgotten."

Mourners were told that Bowyer's headstone will carry the inscription: “There is those who bring a light so great to the world that even after they are gone the light remains, will never be forgotten.”

Hundreds of fans travelled to Waterford to pay a final tribute to the biggest star to emerge during the golden era of Irish showbands.

For many fans, Bowyer was the iconic figure of a golden era in Irish music.

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Fans were told that the singer never forgot his Waterford roots and was immensely proud throughout his life of his Irish heritage.

Such was the fame of the Royal Showband in the early 1960s that The Beatles – then an up-and-coming Liverpool band – opened for them at a UK gig. Six months later The Beatles would release the single Love Me Do and became the biggest band on the planet.

When Bowyer was lured to Las Vegas to play a long-time residency in the early 1970s, Elvis Presley insisted on going to see him perform.

Mr Bowyer is survived by his wife, Stella, his children, Brendan Jr, Aisling and Clodagh, his grandchildren Liam and Nora, his sisters Olive, Pat and Alison, as well as Stella's brothers Michael, John and Gerard. He was predeceased by his sister-in-law, Joan.

The Bishop of Waterford Dr Alphonsus Cullinan, sent his deepest sympathy.

Fr Darcy presided over the mass with Fr Eamonn O'Driscoll and Fr John Harris.

Soprano Caroline Reid O'Brien performed during the service with the singer's ashes leaving the cathedral to the strains of How Great Thou Art.

Officials from Waterford City and County Council formed a special guard of honour.

Fr Darcy said Brendan Bowyer was a true Irish legend.

"Good friend and one of our heroes in life, the legendary, the great, the never to be equalled Brendan Bowyer," he said.

"Particularly today I would like to welcome the great fans of Brendan Bowyer. Because when you heard him singing I Walk with Godit brought you back to packed ballrooms, concert halls, Brendan and the Royal Showband performing in a wonderful way.

"Always raising our spirits and bringing us joy and happiness, sending us home sweating and sending us home happy. He did it for almost 60 years.

"So many of his friends have gone but today I want to particularly welcome and thank his family for letting us share the beautiful man that Brendan Bowyer was.

"He was so proud of Waterford. So proud of Ireland. So proud of his family. So loyal to his fans. So grateful to them all.

"If he wanted one word writ large it would be appreciation. He appreciated it and appreciated it ever more as he grew old.

"It is hard to mention everyone but I want to make it a welcoming all-embracing thing. So I know many of you have come long journeys with your head full of memories.

"Do you know what you do? Don’t listen to a word I say. Just dream on. The sweaty ball rooms, the skirts, the hucklebuck shoes, the dances.

"Standing in awe as Brendan sang the old ballads. Let your memories drift in to those. The mineral bar and the fella who asked you for the last dance. Hoping that he had a car!

"And all of those are what we think of."

"As you think of those stay with them and thank God you were lucky enough to live through the best era we ever had. Why? Because of Brendan Bowyer and the show band."

Fr Darcy also made special mention of the late Tom Dunphy, another showband legend who, with Bowyer, helped found the Royal Showband.

While The Clipper Carlton were credited with the early popularity of the showband genre, it was the Royal Showband who became the iconic symbol of the era.

The Royal Showband, who emerged from Waterford in 1957, are best remembered for their huge hit, The Hucklebuck', which was initially planned as a B-side to another song.

The Bowyer family said they were deeply touched by the many messages of tribute to the late singer.

Mr Bowyer suffered an accidental fall in his home in May 2020 and broke a bone in his arm. He was taken to hospital in Las Vegas but died following complications which saw him develop pneumonia.

His daughter, Clodagh, said it was always her father's wish to be buried in his beloved Waterford. “Dad wanted to be laid to rest in Dunmore East with his parents," she said.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic allied with lockdowns and international travel restrictions forced the family to put the Irish funeral plans on hold.

“We had been unable to visit him (in hospital) due to the Covid-19 restrictions," Clodagh added. "But the restrictions were lifted on the day he passed. It was a miracle because it meant that we were all able to be there with Dad. We all think that maybe he was holding on until he saw us. It was such a beautiful, peaceful passing.”

The family said they have been overwhelmed by messages of support, tributes to Bowyer and recollections from ordinary fans about how much his music and that of the Royal Showband and The Big Eight meant to successive generations.

The singer was the only son of musical parents and credited his success with them instilling in him a love of music and performing.

Brendan Bowyer's first major public performance was as a child at the Redemptorist Church in Limerick where his father, Stanley, was conducting the choir.

He briefly worked as a clerk in Waterford before the Royal Showband achieved meteoric success.

Underlining Bowyer and his bandmates' deep links to their home city, the name 'the Royal Showband' came from Waterford's famous Theatre Royal.

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