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From: Nancy Mazzeo Reeb <>
Subject: Pete Browne R.I.P. Western People
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 13:02:08 -0800


December 12th 2001
Kiltimagh and showbiz friends bid farewell to Pete Browne
By Michael Commins
Pete Browne (68) from Kiltimagh, a prominent bandleader of the showband
era, died recently at his home in Chapel Street, Kiltimagh. News of his
passing saddened his many friends in the music business throughout the
area who had known him as a man dedicated to his love of music over the
years and to maintaining the highest of standards while on stage. Pete
had a love for music since his early years. The advent of the showband
era with the arrival of the Clipper Carlton Showband from Tyrone
heralded a sea-change in the Irish entertainment scene. At the other end
of the country, the Royal Showband came swash-buckling out of Waterford.
It was the era when Ireland was swinging to the sounds of the big
showbands. The bands mushroomed in towns and villages all over the
country. It became a huge industry giving employment to an estimated
6,000 people at its peak. In Kiltimagh, Pete Browne was making his own
plans. His Band of Renown soon became popular favourites on the western
circuit and in many parts of Donegal. A talented band with a strong
brass section specialising in the popular music of the day. (In later
years Pete called his band the Sundowners). In 1962, Pete Browne and his
Band of Renown became the sixth Irish showband to fly the Atlantic and
take in a tour of American cities. It was the first of a number of such
ventures that saw the Kiltimagh based band strike a rich vein in the
hearts of the western exiles.

Speaking to me sometime ago, Pete recalled their first trip to New York
after jetting out from Shannon Airport. "People began to queue outside
the famous City Center Ballroom in Manhattan a few hours before we were
due on stage . At the time the idea of an Irish showband travelling to
America was still new, only five had gone before us including the Royal,
the Capitol and the Johnny Flynn Showband from Tuam. "We also played to
huge crowds in Chicago, Cleveland and the New State Ballroom in Boston.
I recall doing quite a number of radio interviews during that tour,"
said Pete. He was the featured guest on my Mid-West Late Show one night
back in 1994. Numerous people remarked about his wonderful voice and
delivery. It was quite exceptional. Pete's band that toured America
included Doc Carroll, Brian Carr and Frank and Vincent Gill, all of whom
later went on to form the Royal Blues Showband, as well as Pete's
brother James, who died last year in Kiltormer, Co. Galway, and the late
Billy Holian from Tuam. Doc Carroll subsequently became the first singer
from Connacht to register a Number One in the Irish Top 20 with Old Man
Trouble.

Nostalgic night
In September, 1994, Pete reformed some of his bands for a nostalgic
night in the old Town Hall in Kiltimagh. It was a marvellous night of
music, song and dance. Old friends came to pay their respects and share
in Pete's special night among his own in Kiltimagh. I can still vividly
see Brose Walsh, Dick Gillespie and Seamie Gavin arriving together and
climbing the steps into the hall. A few short years later, all three
veteran troubadours had crossed that Great Divide. Over the last few
years, Pete did an occasional gig with the Brose Walsh Band. He was most
at ease on stage for it was where his talent was expressed to its truest
potential. The love of music never left his heart. It drew him forth
continuously and he appreciated a good musician and a good singer to the
end. Perhaps it was appropriate that Pete's last public performance was
at the surprise 70th birthday party for his neighbour across the road,
Maureen Walsh from Chapel Street, Kiltimagh (and mother of showbiz
impresario, Louis Walsh) in Breaffy House Hotel a few months ago.
Brendan Grace was the special guest on the night. Pete rendered two of
Maureen's favourite songs, "A Mother's Love Is A Blessing' and 'My
Donegal Shore'. Even then it was clear that Pete was the ultimate
showbiz professional. The way in which he handled the crowd and the
dancers was exquisite and a lesson in communication for any would-be
entertainer. And so it was with profound sadness and shock that we
learned of his passing in Kiltimagh. Fast falls the 'even'tide and all
things pass. Sometimes life is like a cloud gently floating across the
sky. But it passes all too quickly.

Family and friends gathered to pay their respects to Pete, an
institution in the region over the years. Removal was from O'Hora's
Funeral Home to the Church of the Holy Family. At the Requiem Mass, Fr.
Paddy Kilcoyne spoke honestly and with great understanding of Pete's
love of music, his days at the top, and in later years how he had to
face and endure darker days that can afflict people in any walk of life
at any time. "After awhile on the local scene after the showband era had
gone into decline, he turned to his mechanical skills and set up a
garage on the Bohola road," recalled Fr. Kilcoyne. "In the mid-1970s he
changed career again and together with his wife Nancy headed over to New
York. But he was never happy being too long gone from the town he loved
so well and so they returned to Kiltimagh around 1990. "Pete was,
essentially, a very nice man, a gentleman. Last Summer he enjoyed very
much a visit to his son Raymond, daughter-in-law Heidi and grandchildren
in Florida."

Friends from the music business and neighbours in the town formed a
guard of honour and flanked the hearse as far as Pete's home in Chapel
Street. At the completion of the graveside prayers, Frank Chambers, son
of the late Tony Chambers, played a lovely rendition of one of Pete's
favourite hymns on the trumpet and finished off with a rendition of "The
Red River Valley" as tears flowed freely from many an eye. Pete was
predeceased by his wife Nancy in 1995 and is survived by his son
Raymond, Vice-Principal of Holy Cross Private Academy in Miami, Florida,
daughter-in-law Heidi and grandchildren, and by his sister Margaret
Wilkinson in Kiltimagh, brother-in-law Jackie, nephews, nieces,
relatives, neighbours and friends.



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