HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to well known local man Tom O'Neill who recently passed away after a short illness.
Tom, who ran The House of McDonnell bar, along with his wife Eileen, died last Monday and was laid to his final rest at St Patrick's Church, Culfeightrin, on Friday.
Paying tribute to Tom, family friend and poet Micheal O Seanain wrote on social media: "I met him first where Friday night becomes aware of Saturday morning and 1995 was in rude health.
"He was in mid stride and greeted Catherine with warm familiarity. I was newly blown in and far from home.
"The bar was busy and traditional music eased itself round the company near the back door. He had haste in his step and flitted small bird like among glasses and yarns.
"His beard and face were completed with grey stemmed spectacles and he kept an inquisitive look. He considered his response to my initial hello and replied with a look at Catherine that asked 'Where did you find this eejit?'.
"I liked him from that point on. Over a thousand subsequent evenings we developed a friendship shaped around music and my growing knowledge of the area.
"He knew more than he ever let on and released information with a knowing caution. If ever two people were designed for each other it was Eileen and he.
"They were two halves of the same sentence. And if ever a bar suited two people it was theirs.
"Notably absent in recent months we ever expected his return but alas we are today terribly saddened to learn that it is not to be.
"From the bottom of our hearts Tom we will miss you."
The House of McDonnell, usually known as 'Tom's' is a well known spot for the best traditional music in Ballycastle with locals and travellers flocking for the likes of the tin whistle, bodhrán and other traditional instruments.
Dick Glasgow, who often performed traditional music in Tom's, added: "In a year of sad passings, with a heavy heart we must add another well known and loved figure to the list.
"Tom O'Neill, owner of one of the best known session pubs in Ireland, will now be pulling pints for the likes of Tommy Peoples and Alec Finn at that great session above.
His bar, The House of McDonnell in Ballycastle, Co Antrim, has been in his family for over 240 years and thanks to being largely unchanged over the years, is Grade A Listed & a great classic among Irish pubs.
"It is also one of the finest session pubs in the country andwith Tom at the helm you were always guaranteed a warm welcome from this perfect host.
"Tom's Friday night session has certainly been the highlight of my week now for many years. Deepest condolences to his wife Eileen, son James and the family circle, as well as to Tom's very wide circle of friends."
Ballycastle and Glens Sinn Féin Councillor, Cara McShane, added her condolences: “Firstly I extend my heartfelt sympathy to Eileen, James and the wider O’Neill clan.
“Tom O’Neill was known throughout this island and far beyond these shores. Many songs have been sung, stories told and great memories made in ‘The House of McDonnell’ - one of the most iconic public houses in Ireland, run by Tom and his wife Eileen.
“If it was nearing closing time (or sometimes beyond it...) Tom would respond to a tap at the door. With a glint in his eye, he would peer up and down the street several times before stepping quickly back behind the door and ushering the eager patrons in.
“No doubt a huge part of Tom died years before, when his daughter Maura Lisa passed suddenly.
“He had a formidable presence and many in this community will deeply mourn his passing. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”