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'Awful shock' Sharon Shannon tells of how she slept on a couch beside coffin of her boyfriend following his tragic death

Sharon reveals her grief and shock at the sudden death of 'gorgeous' Leo and losing her dream

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Sharon with Leo.

Sharon with Leo.

Sharon was a household name when she met Leo.

Sharon was a household name when she met Leo.

Sharon aged just 14 performing with Paul O’Shaughnessy.

Sharon aged just 14 performing with Paul O’Shaughnessy.

Sharon Shannon with her brother and two sisters in Co. Clare in the early 1970s

Sharon Shannon with her brother and two sisters in Co. Clare in the early 1970s

Sharon with her mum Mary in 1967

Sharon with her mum Mary in 1967

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Sharon with Leo.

Sharon Shannon has revealed how she slept on a couch beside the coffin of her boyfriend following his tragic death from a heart attack.

The music legend also told how her "legs turn to jelly" when she remembers the grief she suffered when her partner, Leo Healy, died at the age of 46 in 2008.

In a revealing interview, Sharon said she brought Leo back to the home they shared following his sudden death and spent several days with the body.

"I wanted to sleep on the couch beside the coffin," she remembers.

"There was music going nearly 24/7 at the house for about three weeks, and music is an incredible healer, like it just lifts up your spirits.

"It was incredibly sad, but uplifting as well, all this music."

Sharon went on to have another relationship after Leo's death with his brother, Jimmy, as they shared a bond through their grief.

Fame

"I did have another relationship afterwards but it didn't work out," she tells Brendan Courtney on RTÉ's Keys To My Life.

"But that's the way life is, I suppose. I'm very happily single."

The Clare musician met Leo in Galway music venue the Roisín Dubh, and although Sharon was a household name, panel beater Leo had no idea of her fame.

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Sharon was a household name when she met Leo.

Sharon was a household name when she met Leo.

Sharon was a household name when she met Leo.

"I used to do gigs in there, Leo wasn't into traditional music, so he didn't know anything about me or who I was or anything like that," she said.

They were together for seven-and-a-half years when Leo suffered a heart attack in a hotel in Cork in 2008.

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"Awful shock," Sharon (52) tells presenter Brendan Courtney, when asked about her reaction to his sudden death.

"Unbelievable altogether. It felt like 'oh no, that didn't really happen - he's gone, he'll be back'."

She adds: "He suffered for years and years with Crohn's [disease], but it wasn't that that killed him, he just had a heart attack.

"He was really, really healthy and he was just beginning to be able to manage the Crohn's."

In the series, which brings celebrities back to places from their past, Sharon looks at pictures of herself and Leo and confesses he was "absolutely gorgeous".

She points to a suit he was wearing in a picture of the pair together.

Gorgeous

"We had been at a wedding before that, that was his first time wearing the suit," she explains. "Then he didn't get to wear it again until he was in the coffin."

Asked how she copes, Sharon chokes up and replies: "Amazingly, I had loads of gorgeous photographs of him.

"In the first few days I was just going through all my photos and saving everything that I could. Sometimes I did nearly lose my balance in my legs with the grief. My legs turned to jelly sometimes."

Sharon and Leo had been living in a converted farmhouse in Craughwell, Co. Galway, which Sharon rebuilt from scratch. But she sadly lost her dream home when the recession hit in 2008.

"The backside kind of fell out of the music industry very suddenly," she says. "I had a mortgage on this house, and it was crippling.

"The bank took it at least 10 years ago. The whole thing was unbelievably stressful - I can't describe how stressful it was."

Sharon, who now lives in Galway city, confesses she harbours "no bitterness" over her ordeal.

"It's just a memory," she stresses. "Not a nice memory, but memories are nice too."

Sharon was born in Ruan, Co. Clare, in 1967 to a farming family, and her siblings played musical instruments from a young age.

The family farmhouse is now locked up and empty. Her mother Mary died seven years ago, while her father, who is 92, lives nearby.

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Sharon with her mum Mary in 1967

Sharon with her mum Mary in 1967

Sharon with her mum Mary in 1967

Sharon tells a story about how hard it was to keep the house warm in winter. She remembers itchy blankets and says: "It was so cold there was frost on top of the blankets," she says.

Her parents were "stone mad for music" she recalls. They used to dance in the kitchen to the radio and passed on their love of music to the family.

Sharon says she hated school and by the age of 16 she was touring with Ceoltas in the USA.

Her parents wanted her to go to college and get a steady job, and her mum was broken hearted that she wanted to drop out.

Sharon's sister, Majella, was doing a secretarial course in Limerick so that was the compromise.

Her efforts at the secretarial course didn't last long and Sharon escaped to Doolin, playing in local bars and living in a cottage.

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Sharon Shannon with her brother and two sisters in Co. Clare in the early 1970s

Sharon Shannon with her brother and two sisters in Co. Clare in the early 1970s

Sharon Shannon with her brother and two sisters in Co. Clare in the early 1970s

Brendan and Sharon visit that cottage, which has been derelict for nearly two decades.

But Sharon has fond memories of her time there and says it was exciting having her first taste of freedom.

Wonder

There was no toilet in the cottage when she lived there in 1988 and she recalls how she went outside and "didn't give a s***e".

In 1989, Sharon laid down some recordings at Winkles Hotel in Galway.

The Waterboys took notice of her and Sharon recorded an album with them in Spiddal House.

"It's brilliant to be back, I don't want to leave, I loved being here," she says.

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Sharon aged just 14 performing with Paul O’Shaughnessy.

Sharon aged just 14 performing with Paul O’Shaughnessy.

Sharon aged just 14 performing with Paul O’Shaughnessy.

The Waterboys subsequently invited Sharon to play at the Glastonbury music festival in England with them.

"It's a wonder I was invited to play in a rock and roll band looking like that," Sharon laughs, looking at pictures of her back then.

"I wasn't used to playing that kind of music. I had to learn very fast, it was quite daunting. A lot of the time I wondered what the hell I was doing in the band and what did they want me there for.

"I had a lot of doubts - 'I don't deserve this' kind of thing."

By the early 1990s, Sharon's time with The Waterboys was finished and she moved to Henry Street in Galway and recorded her own album.

And she made a huge impression when Gay Byrne brought her on to The Late Late Show.

"I didn't want to talk, I was really inexperienced at doing interviews," she says when looking at footage of Gay remarking that 'she doesn't want to talk' when Sharon was short on her answers. "I'd be useless, I'd make a fool out of myself.

"I got spooked, the first time I had to do a radio interview I got tongue tied and was totally and utterly freaked out," Sharon admits.

When asked what advice she'd give her younger self, Sharon says she wouldn't have pushed herself in interviews because she wasn't able for it.

"So many times I have done interviews and I'd be upset for days afterwards," she admits.

She also recalls how she recorded and performed Galway Girl with Steve Earle, and how in 2008 she and Mundy had her biggest hit with a cover of the song.

"That song has got legs of its own," she giggles.

  • Keys To My Life is on RTÉ One tonight at 7.30pm.

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