HEARTS sank across Omagh last weekend when news about the sudden death of Liam ‘Rum’ McBride (54) made its way around the town.
Rum – as he was popularly known – was an Omagh man through and through.
Prior to his passing, he was a loved and valued committee member of the residents’ association of Culmore and O’Kane Park – a corner of the town he was intimately acquainted with.
Over the last 20 years, Rum became renowned as a light-hearted and entertaining actor on the local amateur dramatics scene, appearing in a fistful of productions, his mischievous, and sometimes ludicrous, characters buttressing the comic backbone of many plays or short films.
The last of these, the filming of which only ended in May, is called ‘Tree Cheers for Christmas’, and it will be posthumously released in December. When he was not rehearsing or on stage, Rum could often be found sitting along Main Street, coffee and cigarette to hand, watching the world as it sauntered on by. His conversational ally on these mornings was frequently Peter McLaughlin, a local writer and community worker.
Peter spoke with the UH this week to share a touching tribute to his old friend, Rum.
“I’ve known Rum forever. All the old Omagh families used to know each other,” began Peter.
The pair got friendly not far off 20 years ago, and, over time, their friendship blossomed into a slightly more professional relationship.
“I write plays and short films, and, when I was doing my second play, Rum expressed an interest in getting on board,” explained Peter.
Rum made his debut in Peter’s ‘The Gossip Shop’, and, while that might have whetted his appetite for the bright lights, Rum was more taken by the camaraderie and connection which grew from the first rehearsal to the final performance.
“He loved to be a part of the theatre,” said Peter.
“He loved the friendship and the craic and he truly was a team player, you know.”
Through the years, Rum was cast in many plays written by Peter and one by former ‘Herald journalist, Aidy Mullan.
“In my experience, people gravitated towards Rum. He was michevious, funny and he said things like it was – people liked that,” said Peter.
Then Peter reflected on the shock and pain which has been unleashed since Rum’s unexpected death.
“He was a young man and people are still reeling since his passing – I know I am,” said Peter.
“Most mornings, we would sit down Main Street, drinking cofee, putting the world to rights, and probably chatting a pile of you-know-what too,” laughed Peter.
“Now there will always be an empty chair at the table, but I know Rum will always be with us in spirit.”
Charlotte Turnball – an Omagh artist – acted alongside Rum on many occassions. She also took the opportunity to pay tribute.
“Rum and I were in loads of things together; we were dwarves in the panto; ballerinas for a spoof of The Vicar of Dibley.
And, even in the most stressful moments, Rum could bring a smile to everyone’s face with a wee cheeky remark,” said Charlotte.
“I absolutely loved that he never learned the dances and had a whale of a time improvising in the background,” she laughed.
“In a ballerina sketch, he had to catch me and I was easily a solid 15 stone at the time so you can imagine the roar of him every time. But, still, he never complained,” smiled Charlotte.
Rum was the son of the late Thomas and Noreen, loving partner of Shauna and father of Toni, Rose and Molly, brother of Stephen, Thomas, John, Ursula, Connie, Hilary and Sarah.
He was laid to rest on Monday morning in Drumragh graveyard.
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