‘Queen of country’ marks 50th year in showbusiness

Ireland’s “queen of country music” has invited her fans to join her for a massive party on the Costa del Sol to celebrate her 50 years in the music industry.

Philomena Begley, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, was speaking in Cork last night where she was honoured for her contribution to the business.

Ms Begley, who celebrated her 70th birthday recently, assured her fans that she has no plans to retire. “I started in the business back in 1962 and thank God, I’m still going strong,” she said.

“The years have flown by. It doesn’t feel like 50 years. But I have no plans to retire. Sure it’s too late for me to retire now.”

As well as regular concert dates in Northern Ireland, the Tyrone- born star said she is looking forward to performing in a major concert of international country music stars in Nashville in April.

But she issued a specific invitation to her fans to join her on holiday on Spain’s Costa del Sol next September where she will perform with other Irish stars including Daniel O’Donnell, Susan McCann, and Foster and Allen, in a celebratory concert series.

She was in Cork yesterday with her son, Aiden, as guests of Roger Ryan, founder and chairman of the Country Music Association of Ireland (CMAI).

After a visit to the nuns at the Sacred Heart Convent in Bessboro, and a stop off at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Ms Begley was welcomed to City Hall by Lord Mayor Cllr John Buttimer, before the CMAI made presentations to her in Blackrock GAA club. “It is the only official award she’s getting to mark her 50 years in the music business,” Mr Ryan said.

The presentation included a selection of goodwill messages from top music stars and Jo Walker Meador, the former executive director of the CMA in Nashville.

Kathleen Cahill, the president of her fan club, also presented Ms Begley with a folder of congratulatory messages from her fans around Ireland.

Ms Begley shot to international fame in 1975 with her version of Billie Jo Spears’s hit ‘Blanket on the Ground’, which reached number five in the Irish charts. She embarked on a major tour of the US in 1977 and performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 1978. She has been a regular performer to Nashville ever since, and has performed in Carnegie Hall.

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