Irish folk legend Ronnie Drew – the former frontman of ballad group The Dubliners – has been given an old-fashioned Irish wake by his family. The gravel-voiced singer, who passed away on 16th August, was waked in his Greystones, Co Wicklow home, by hundreds of fans, friends, family members and neighbours before his funeral in the nearby Church of the Holy Rosary. Among those dropping in to pay their respects to his son Phelim and daughter Cliodhna – and Ronnie himself – was composer Phil Coulter, singer Paul Brady, Riverdance composer Bill Whelan, Eurovision Song Contest winner Shay Healy and Sinead O’Connor. Local people in Greystones supplied food and drink for mourners who had traveled from far and near. And Ronnie was laid-out inside in his coffin in one of his best suits. His agent and friend Brian hand said: “He wanted a big party more than anything else. This was a celebration of life. He was a real man of the people and that was what he wanted. So he got it.” Ronnie was laid to rest in Greystones cemetery after a service that include music from his old Dubliners colleagues Barney McKenna and John Sheehan. The church was so full, loudspeakers broadcast the ceremony to the hundreds outside in the car park. Ronnie ” regarded as the ultimate Dubliner ” passed away after a long battle with throat cancer. Last year his wife Deirdre, who nursed him through the initial stages of his illness, contracted cancer herself and died. But he battled on enduring bout after bout of exhausting chemotherapy, supported by his children, five grandchildren and extended family. Earlier this year U2 star Bono was behind a tribute song to him called The Ballad Of Ronnie Drew. It reached number one in the Irish charts and featured contributions from The Edge, Andrea Corr, Moya Brennan of Clannad, Sinead O’Connor, members of The Dubliners and a host of others. Ronnie was suitably embarrassed by the tribute, which was broadcast in a TV special while he sat in the audience. The song was co-written by Bono and The Edge along with contributions from Robert Hunter, the lyricist with legendary American band The Grateful Dead. While Bono attended Deirdre Drew’s funeral last year to console Ronnie, there was no sign of him at the singer’s own funeral. He was believed to be on holiday with family and friends at his home in the south of France. But manager Paul McGuinness was there to represent the supergroup, while President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Briwn Cowen were also represented by aides. And colourful Pogues singer Shane MacGowan arrived in a black top hat to pay his respects. The Dubliners formed in the early 1960s and were originally called The Ronnie Drew Group. But the changed their name to The Dubliners after the James Joyce book that group member Luke Kelly was reading at the time. In 1967 they were the first Irish act to appear on British chart show Top Of The Pops singing the controversial Seven Drunken Nights, which was banned on Irish radio. Nearly 20 years later they teamed up with punk-folk band The Pogues to appear on the same show singing The Irish Rover. As famed for their drinking sessions as their songs, they toured for decades. But nearly 20 years ago Ronnie called a halt, quit he group and gave up drinking. Since then he performed regularly, doing solo shows, readings, pantomime and occasionally re-uniting with the band for special shows. With a voice of gravel that belied a heart of gold, he died peacefully in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin surrounded by his family. A true Irish legend.

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