Saturday, 03 April 2021 09:51

BRIAN COLL..Legend of ShowBand Era

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BRIAN COLL INDUCTION: A Master Performer of Popular Irish Songs

On the 6th March 1941 Thomas ‘Brian’ Coll was born and raised in Gallows Hill, Omagh, Co Tyrone, to parents Barney from Claramore, Co Tyrone, and Kathleen (nee Kiely) from Carigart, Co Donegal.Brian came from a family of thirteen, consisting of seven sisters and five brothers. His brother Gabriel, who was in the Irish Army and in lived in Dublin, pre-deceased Brian a number of years ago.

The legendary singer started school in 1945 in the Loreto Convent Primary School in Omagh, and in 1953 went to Culmore School, Omagh and from there became very involved in music, as Brian started acting and singing in the local pantomimes.It was from this that he came to the notice of local band members from “The Polka Dots” Showband and was asked to join as a singer with legendary Frankie McBride, also from Omagh. 

Brian practiced a few nights a week with the band until his first date, which was 20th October 1960 in the Pallidrome Hall in Strabane, Co Tyrone. Brian continued to play with the band,meeting and singing on stage with some of the world’s greatest acts such as Roy Orbison and Chubby Checker and then in 1962 Brian decided to leave the band and join another Omagh showband called “The Plattermen” but only stayed a year before returning to “The Polka Dots” where he remained for a further two years.

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In 1965 Brian (again) left “The Polka Dots” to return once more to “The Plattermen”. This is where he recorded his first big hit single entitled “I’ll take You Home Again Kathleen” which was a song close to Brian’s heart because it was his mother’s name.  Many more singles were released and with “The Plattermen” Brian recorded his first album entitled “The Rose of Tralee”.  More singles followed for Brian and the band and with extensive touring, this had now put Brian in the spotlight. In 1968 a decision was made to form his own band, calling them “The Buckaroos”. At this time he was managed by Barney Curley and the new band debuted in Bundoran,Co Donegal.  Some new music was recorded also, but in 1970 some changes were made to the band and Brian recruited a new manager by the name of Seamus McCusker and both Brian and Seamus worked well together for the next 25 years. 


Brian knew exactly what it took to please the fans with fantastic musicians around him and the right material to record. The next two singles “Give An Irish Girl To Me” and “These Are My Mountains” were Brian’s greatest chart successes and made his popularity grow even bigger than before.The dates were phenomenal and a recording deal was already in place with Mick Clerkin from Release Records when Brian released his first album with “The Buckaroos” entitled “Sing Me Back Home”.

For a long number of years Brian toured Ireland, The UK, Scotland and America on numerous occasions and played in Carnegie Hall. In America he met more big names such as Buck Owens, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton and even Slim Whitman, who Brian was a fan of.  Slim loved Brian singing and gave him the offer to go to America, but Brian turned down this opportunity. Feeling so close to his fan base in Ireland, he didn’t want to leave it all behind.


In 1989 on the way to a Leo Sayers concert, Brian became ill and stopped on the side of the road and was rushed to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where it was diagnosed, he had a brain hemorrhage and was subsequently taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for immediate surgery. Thankfully Brian survived this great health scare and was back on stage with his band in 1990 with a “Welcome Back Dance” in the GAA Centre in Omagh, where a crowd of 2,500 people attended from all over Ireland. The biggest names in country played at this dance from John Hogan, the late great Gene Stuart, Philomena Begley, Hugo Duncan and many more including Brian’s all-time favourite band, The Melody Aces.


In 1993 Brian decided to retire from the music business and again another great dance was held in Omagh with a lineup of stars all present to say goodbye to Ireland’s legend, Brian Coll and Daniel O'Donnell made a special guest appearance. A fantastic night was had by all who travelled,but  this was not to be the end of Brian. Encouraged by his fans he returned to the stage once more taking in more concert style appearances and guest spots.  

In 2020 Brian Coll celebrated 60 years in the music industry and was presented with “The All-time Achievement Award” at The Northern Ireland Music Awards by Journalist and Broadcaster from Mid-West Radio in Mayo, Michael Commins.This was to be Brian’s last appearance on stage due to Covid 19.

In October 2020 Brian was diagnosed with cancer and was to receive treatment. Then unexpectedly on Saturday 7th November 2020, Ireland stood still as one of its greatest legends passed away from a heart attack in his native town of Omagh at approximately 10pm. This famous son of Omagh previously had heart issues, but was still expecting to start treatment for cancer the following week when the devastating news was announced the famous singer had passed away. His family, friends in the music industry and fans were deeply saddened.  Due to covid restrictions his wake was strictly private and only 25 people were allowed into the Sacred Heart Chapel in Omagh, but that didn’t stop his musical family and fans from being there. 

People from showbiz such as Philomena Begley, Tony Allen from Foster and Allen fame, John Glenn, Mick Flavin and past members of his band, were all in attendance.  Brian’s Mass was said by his dearest friend Fr Brian Darcy, and he was laid to rest with his beloved parents in Drumragh Cemetery, just outside Omagh town. Brian is survived by his four daughters and one son and large family circle. 

Rest In Peace Brian Coll (The Legend)…you will never be forgotten  


Last modified on Friday, 09 April 2021 22:12