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Obituary: Celtic Thunder singer George Donaldson (1968 – 2014)

George Donaldson
George Donaldson

IT was with much sadness that the Irish community of Glasgow packed into St. Paul’s Church, Shettleston on Friday 21 March to say their farewells to George Donaldson, who died suddenly of a heart attack on March 12. 

One of nine children, the East End raised musician started his singing career in local pubs and clubs and had been the resident singer in Jinty McGuinty’s for the last 20 years.

His talent and voice, with a warmth and brogue for ballad singing, saw George travel throughout Scotland and the islands bringing his songs to the people.

His interaction with his audience whilst playing was renowned, stemming from his great love and fondness for “real people”.

In 2007 he became one of the original members, and only Scotsman, of Celtic Thunder, completing several tours of North America to packed concert halls.  George recently completed his first solo album and was preparing for Celtic Thunder’s forthcoming Australian tour.

George was a family man and is survived by his wife Carolyn and 13 year old daughter Sarah.

He had referred to his family as the “light of my life” and could often be found on Twitter, tweeting about Carolyn and Sarah and how he missed them during tours with Celtic Thunder. His last tweet was about a night in, watching Harry Potter with Sarah.

Over the past four years Sarah has been attending St. Roch’s evening sessions to practise traditional Irish music with the Glasgow Irish Minstrels, a branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and the parent organisation for the St Roch’s Céilí Band.

George was delighted that Sarah was playing with St Roch’s and enjoyed jamming with his girl when he was home from his travels. He was delighted that she had such a great platform as St Roch’s and he knew she loved playing.

Lyn Crumlish, PRO St Roch’s, said: “Unfortunately we didn’t see too much of George because of his musical commitments across the water, however, when he was around he would play at our concerts and family ceilidhs.

“He was just a very ordinary, friendly guy who would chat to everyone and took a real interest in how all the kids were progressing.”

George accompanied Sarah and Carolyn to the All Ireland Fleadh in Derry city last summer and he jammed the night away with all the St Roch’s mums, dads and kids into the wee small hours.

Lyn commented: “Such was his down to earth character that he would never boast of his success within the music scene. In fact one of the parents commented to him that he should seriously think of taking up singing as a career.

“I would like to think that George can rest well in the knowledge that Sarah has been left in great musical hands and I know she will continue to do her wonderful Dad very proud.”

Glasgow City Councillor Feargal Dalton said: “When I first moved to Glasgow 20 years ago George had just started out as the resident singer in Jinty’s.  Like many new and old Irish in the city, Wednesday and Sunday nights became ‘Big George at Jinty’s’ nights.  He was part of how I settled in my new home town.

“We were all delighted to see George’s increasing success with Celtic Thunder.  But following his most recent tour he was up at St Roch’s on Tuesday nights letting us all know that he was back in Jinty’s on Sundays.  I got down to see him in Jinty’s recently, not realising it would be the last time.

“Despite singing to large crowds around the world he loved being back in his natural setting in the corner of Jinty’s enjoying the craic with the locals.  While we will always remember his music, those of us privileged to have known George know that, above all else, he was a family man and his greatest love and pride were reserved for Carolyn and Sarah.”

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33 comments on “Obituary: Celtic Thunder singer George Donaldson (1968 – 2014)”

  1. dotty wooley

    Dearest carolyn anb Sarah, it's with an extremely sad heart that I write to you! I always looked for you in the audience with the boys were preforming....I loved George and thought he was such a great entertainer! His life was cut way too short, he still had so many things to do! I am completely lost and devastated that such a thing could happen.LOVE

  2. Lori Mabry

    I just wanted say I am saddened to hear about George Donaldson'S Death. I wanted Carolyn and Sarah to know I am praying for them during this time. Sarah, I know how you feeling right know. I lost my dad when I was 13 also. I am 51 years old. Just take one day at a time, things will get better soon. Love , Lori

  3. Niall Gordon

    My wife and I used to see Celtic Thunder on Irish TV's showcase - they were something special, and hopefully can still be. RIP.

  4. Steve Coller

    George was my favorite member of Celtic Thunder. He will be sorely missed by millions around the world.

    We are all much rich for George with us. There is a hole on earth do to his passing. But he is singing with the angels now and that is a blessing to Heaven.

  5. John & Leesa Belcher

    We were able to see 3 Celtic Thunder Concerts here in Clearwater and Sarasota Florida. George had a fantastic presents! We could see he was REAL. Doing what he loved and loved the guys he was with. The good Lord called him home and he will be missed I am sure by millions of fans. Our thoughts and Prayers go out to Carolyn and Sarah who lost the most. Leesa Belcher

  6. Brenda Thomas

    I got to know Celtic Thunder through PBS in America. I love them all and thank them for the joy they bring, especially George. My prayers be with his wife and daughter. God be with you.



    I am a CELTIC THUNDER fan since there initial performance THE SHOW ,I am attending there performance in Brisbane tonight 23rd May, It will not be the same with out George and Damian however the show will go on. My deep heart felt sorrow to Carolyn, Sarah and the crew of CELTIC THUNDER, my prayers are with you all, during this very sad time. The song George sang THE OLD MAN will be a memory in my heart for ever as a token of his tallents.May he rest in peace, GOD bless you all. Paul Hamson.Brisbane Australia.


      Beautiful Paul , you & I shall miss "GEORGE THE GREAT" so very much, he held a special place within both our hearts, minds and souls and George will forever live on and you and I shall forever feel his presence when we hear those songs that have special meanings to you and I . I adored what you wrote and I felt it was from the deepest part of the soul I know and love. Your prince. Alexei. xx <3


    With deepest sympathy from myself and my family. Words cannot express the hurt you must be feeling & the fans like myself feel the hurt deeply too. Here is a couple of poems to bring comfort to all who knew " GEORGE THE GREAT!!" Rest in peace and sing loud and beautiful now in the angels choir dear George. God called you home to fill Heaven with amazing song and love. Never to be forgotten. Where I have gone
    I am not so small.
    My soul is as wide
    As the world is tall.
    I have gone to answer
    This call, the call
    Of the one who takes
    Care of us all.
    Wherever you look,
    You will find me there,
    In the heart of a rose,
    In the heart of a prayer.
    On butterflies’ wings,
    On wings of my own,
    To you, I’m gone,
    But I’ never alone.
    I’m over the moon
    I am home.
    Near a shady wall a rose once grew,
    Budded and blossomed in God's free light,
    Watered and fed by the morning dew,
    Shedding it's sweetness day and night.

    As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
    Slowly rising to loftier height,
    It came to a crevice in the wall
    Through which there shone a beam of light.

    Onward it crept with added strength
    With never a thought of fear or pride,
    It followed the light through the crevice's length
    And unfolded itself on the other side.

    The light, the dew, the broadening view
    Were found the same as they were before,
    And it lost itself in beauties new,
    Breathing it's fragrance more and more.

    Shall claim of death cause us to grieve
    And make our courage faint and fall?
    Nay! Let us faith and hope receive--
    The rose still grows beyond the wall,

    Scattering fragrance far and wide
    Just as it did in days of yore,
    Just as it did on the other side,
    Just as it will forever-more.

    With love and peace, from His Serene. Highness Alexei, Count of MONPEZAT & Earl of WOODCHESTER .


    The Rose Beyond The Wall

    A rose once grew where all could see,
    sheltered beside a garden wall,
    And as the days passed swiftly by,
    it spread its branches, straight and tall...

    One day, a beam of light shone through
    a crevice that had opened wide
    The rose bent gently toward its warmth
    then passed beyond to the other side

    Now, you who deeply feel its loss,
    be comforted - the rose blooms there-
    its beauty even greater now, nurtured by
    God's own loving care.


    Don't think of him as gone away
    his journey's just begun,
    life holds so many facets
    this earth is only one.

    Just think of him as resting
    from the sorrows and the tears
    in a place of warmth and comfort
    where there are no days and years.

    Think how he must be wishing
    that we could know today
    how nothing but our sadness
    can really pass away.

    And think of him as living
    in the hearts of those he touched...
    for nothing loved is ever lost
    and he was loved so much.


    Final Flight
    Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free,
    I’m following the path God laid for me.
    I took his hand, when I heard his call,
    I followed him and left it all
    I could not stay another day,
    To laugh, to love, to work, to play.
    Tasks left undone must stay that way,
    I’ve found that peace at the end of the day.
    If my parting has left a void,
    Then fill it with remembered joy.
    A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
    Ah, yes, these things too I will miss.
    Be not burdened with times of sorrow,
    I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
    My Life’s been full, I savored much,
    Good friends, good times, a loved one’ touch.
    Perhaps my time seemed all too brief,
    Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
    Lift up your heart and share with me,
    God wanted me now, He set me free.
    As you release the butterfly, let me go,
    There is something better, God wants us to know,
    As the butterfly flutters with peaceful delight,
    It represents my heavenly, final flight.

    • delphine biggs

      my thoughts n prayers will always be for Carolyn and sarah on the loss of their wonderful and caring husband and father. I still listen and get teary eyed everytime I hear and see his pictures. Ive even printed and framed a photo of the three of them on their couch at their home and am honoured to always have them in my home on my loungeroom wall.



    Rest in peace "GEORGE THE GREAT" you are love and we shall miss you so much from Alex & Paul XX

  13. Jean

    I was just watching PBS on American T.V. and was so saddened by the news of your husband and father George,,my deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  14. Roxanne Mealer

    I was so shocked to see that George has passed. I've watched him on PBS in the States and always loved his songs and voice. It was easy to see his sense of humor and joy in singing.

    I too wish the best for his family. All of his fans recognize how special you were to him.


  15. Marian Kremer

    I'm sorry to hear of the passing of George. I'm glad that he was home and had time to spend with his family before his death. May God bless you both and all those who loved him.

  16. susan

    I was watching Celtic Thunder on PBS in America amd was shocked and saddened to hear of Georges passing. May God keep you in the palm of his hand. Thank you to his family for sharing him he will be greatly missed.:(

  17. Terri

    What a beautiful voice and bright smile he had. We are so lucky he shared his talent and a bit of himself with the world.

  18. Rachel

    One night, here alone, I came upon PBS, and Celtic Thunder was on. I had only seen it once before, and did not know of its fame. But, I loved George from his first note. I loved his eyes, and thought he must be
    a good and honorable man. Many of the lyrics he sang seemed to settle into those eyes of his. I envied those
    he must have loved, to be loved by this good man.
    I am old enough that George could have been my son. I am sure he was a blessing to his Mum, and to his dear wife and daughter. My deepest sympathy to those of you who loved him so.

  19. Teri

    Celtic Thunder what a wonder. I have treasured their music since the beginning. My favorites, George and Damian, George was such a pleasure be it his sweet voice, his wonderful smile or playful way. Celtic Thunder will never be the same. My heart goes out to his wife and daughter.

  20. Carol Bovest

    I just heard through PBS in Boston of George Donaldson's passing last March. I was privileged to see Celtic Thunder in person on two occasions and being of Scottish heritage I loved to hear George sing. He looked so strong and handsome especially in his Kilt. God bless his family and may he rest in peace. My heart is heavy and so sad!

  21. Paul Hamson

    8 months has passed since George has left us with such sadness still in my heart,I often play my dvd's with him and most of the original cast ,George had given so much to his family,music and his fans.My dear friend Alex and I will always be grateful to George as Alex and I have fond memories for George's songs as a token of our affectionate that bought us closer for each other,those songs will always remain in our hearts for ever.Alex your words and poems are so beautiful and I am sure all who have read them would agree.
    George will never be forgotten in our thoughts and heart. Paul Hamson, Brisbane Australia.

  22. mick

    To say im gutted is daft, the whole of Glasgow is gutted! Anyone who knew big george is gutted! I miss you my big mate, I will see you soon my good man! The one man i talked to about everything and anything. Love you to bits mate! God bless carolyn and sarah! XXX

  23. Anne Melanson

    I am so shocked at just hearing the news about George.
    I loved watching and listening to him sing.
    My condolences go out to his family.

  24. Joan P martin

    So sorry he was so young lost my dad at 42 life is not always fair.I loved his song I want to spend my life with you. your family will be in my prayers.

  25. Jim D.

    I have just discovered George and his wonderful talent. Purchased some of his music and shared it with my wife just last night. Today I have learned of his passing to the Father. His gift has touched me and my family even after his departure. His gift to us lives on. Thank you George.

  26. Captain Julia Johnson

    I have recently discovered the beautiful music of Celtic Thunder. I was listening to some music videos tonight, and I wondered who the older gentleman was in the videos. As I searched the internet, I came across this page. I traveled to Glasgow Scotland in 1978 from Washington State, USA), and I loved it. The people and the country were beautiful. I wish that I could have met George, or that I could have gone to a concert to hear, and see George perform. I sense that George was a very special person. I have to believe that perhaps I will hear him sing in heaven. May God Bless George, and his family forever.

    Captain J. Johnson (Washington DC, USA)

  27. Verona M.P. von Motz

    Condolences from one of your television
    Concert viewer. Great performances I enjoyed

    Verona (Diana) Pelgrom von Motz

  28. judith rubarth

    My husband and I were lucky to see Celtic Thunder The Show when they came to Texas. We were like kids in a candy store, relishing each moment as we watched the comradeship and just the true joy of the performers as they sang their way into our hearts. We only learned today of the passing of George and were shocked and saddened as we watched our DVD and looked up various pieces of information about the individuals on the internet and subsequently learned of the premature passing of George.
    Oddly enough my husband was undergoing heart surgery the same time with 20% chance to survive the surgery and lucky for me, my husband of 53+ years is still convalescing, however slowly.

    His family and friends have our deepest condolences. He will be missed by so many who do not personally know him.


  29. Patty Brake

    Carolyn and Sarah: May ten thousand angels rest upon you to help ease the burden of your loss. Our hearts are saddened and heavy by the untimely passing of your Most Precious George.


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