By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — After a break of three years, singer Daniel O’Donnell held another tea party for adoring fans at his Donegal home last Thursday. They began queuing before dawn broke over the village of Kincasslagh and came from as far away as the United States and Australia.
Many in the huge crowd — estimates of the size put it as high as 10,000 — got a chance for a brief chat with their idol and some even had their tea poured by him.
About 20 coachloads came from Britain and many of them were combining the tea party with his three sell-out concerts at the Mary of Dungloe Festival.
The famous tea party developed out of a chance remark the singer made a few years ago when performing at the Festival.
He wasn’t able to meet fans after the concerts but told them he would be at home the day after the festival if they wanted to drop in.
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Thousands accepted his invitation and the extraordinary party took off from there. So many turned up in 1995 that the small village was brought to a standstill and O’Donnell decided not to hold his get-together the following year. Another party was held in 1997 and then there was none until this year.
"Friendships are formed on days like today," the star said. "People meet people as well as meeting me. There are local people here and people from all over the world.
"Today is a day when lots of people come. They are sure I will be at home. People come at various times throughout the year, but I’m not always here."
With him to receive his guests was his mother, Julia, and his sister Margo.
One dedicated fan was Iris Treanor, 62, from Brisbane, Australia, who was making her first visit, and the oldest fan was Mabel Robinson, 95, from Henley-on-Thames.
Money raised on the day goes to the singer’s Romanian orphanage appeal.
In 1998, O’Donnell pledged to raise £1 million for the Romanian children after visiting the run-down orphanage when neighbors in Donegal told him how much help was needed.
His charity single "Give a Little Love" gave him his first hit in the top 10 charts in Ireland and the UK and the £1 million target was surpassed.
Two homes for the young people have been established and he is now planning a farm for them.