Death of a
THE world of art and show business has lost some of its glitter with the
peaceful passing of former rock ‘n’ roll legend and accomplished artist Bill
Brown at his home in Johnstown, Naas, on Sunday June 6.
Originally from Larne in County Antrim, Billy came to live in Johnstown
in 1971 and spent much of his time in country pursuits.
Prior to his
showband days as lead singer with highly popular Freshmen showband of the
’60s and ’70s, he had designed stained glass windows and this love of art
remained with him to the end.
A gifted vocalist, Billy, with other lead
vocalist Derek Dean, shot The Freshmen into the charts with several hits
including The Beach Boys-sytle pop number “Papa-OO-mow mow” which was
given a unanimous top rating by the panel on BBC television Juke Box Jury
programme. The band, which lasted for 15 years, had made two trips to the US in
1966/67 appearing at venues in New York and Boston.
Billy had appeared
on an Irish Showband Show at the Waterfront in Belfast at Christmas and in the
Olympia Theatre in Dublin on Saturday, May 29, a week before his death. He also
was a regular piano player at The K-Club in Straffan.
In recent years
his nature paintings have been snapped up by those with an eye for exceptional
talent and his work was regarded as pure genius. A ‘Bill Brown’ original was a
guaranteed sale at Martina Phipp’s Tuckmill Gallery in Naas and at her annual
exhibition in Lawlor’s Hotel.
Martina said his death ‘is a complete
loss of a great friend and supporter of the arts’. “He was a man of so many
talents who always received top marks in every exam. There’s a spot on the wall
where his last painting hung and I haven’t the heart to put anything on it,” she
Other aspects of his work included television nature features
and illustrations for childrens’ books.
Many of his showbiz friends
attended the funeral prayers in Naas on Wednesday last, prior to cremation at
Glasnevin Cemetery. Martina Phipps has praised the people of Johnstown for their
kindness to the Brown family at their time of loss.
Billy is survived by
his three sons, from a previous marriage; wife Angela and daughters, Paddy and
Kate, and by his 82-year-old mother Liz.