How a salute to Colin's wonderful life will have a chain reaction for Cork charity...

The family of singer Colin Vearncombe continue to honour his life. CHRIS DUNNE talks to his widow about the pendant created in his memory, plans for a tribute album, and his impending 55th birthday
How a salute to Colin's wonderful life will have a chain reaction for Cork charity...
Sabine Lenz, Enibas, Camilla Griehsel and Anne-Marie of Bru Columbanus. Picture Emma Jervis Photography.

COLIN Vearncombe made the most of his wonderful life.

He and his Swedish-born wife, singer Camilla Grieshal, moved to Schull in 2003 after the birth of their third son, Milan.

The couple, rooted in their magnificent surroundings, immersed themselves in the local artistic community.

“We felt loved and held here,” says Camilla.

Tragically, Colin died on January 26, 2016, after being involved in a road accident on his way to Cork Airport a few weeks earlier.

The singer, known as Black, whose Wonderful Life album sold 1.5 million copies and made No.3 in the UK chart, was missing his good luck charm.

“It was his inspiration,” says Camilla, “He always wore the sun pendant I made for him when we first met in 1988. It had a special inscription and Colin wore it always.”

The couple married in 1990 in the same church in Stockholm as Camilla’s parents.

“The pendant had been left into Enibas jewellers to be fixed,” says Camilla.

“Sabine, of Enibas jewellers in Schull, is a good friend of ours. When Colin was admitted to hospital, I asked Sabine to bring the pendant.”

Unfortunately, Colin didn’t make it. But his precious pendant has inspired Camilla, her sons, and their good friend Sabine Lenz to acknowledge Colin’s biggest hit A Wonderful Life. The quintet came together to design a smiling sun inscribed with the Irish inscription ‘Soal Iontach’ (which translates to A Wonderful Life).

Colin and his wife Camilla.
Colin and his wife Camilla.

All proceeds from the pendant will go to Bru Columbanus in Wilton, which offers a home from home accommodation service to relatives of people with serious illness in Cork hospitals and hospices.

“It is good to give something back,” says Camilla. “When Sabine first approached me at a concert with the idea of creating a commemorative piece inspired by Colin’s pendant, I immediately said ‘yes’.

“The pendant held a particular significance for us and now also for our children. Sabine wanted to create a piece of jewellery for charity for some time, and we’re thrilled that she chose to combine Colin’s pendant with Bru Columbanus for this purpose.

“At that extreme and difficult time, it was invaluable for us to be together from near and far in the haven that is Bru Columbanus. For that, and for the amazing love and support from our community, we are eternally grateful.”

Camilla treasures the time she could spend with her family at a vulnerable time of huge worry and grief.

“It was amazing to be able to stay there, close to the hospital,” says Camilla.

“Colin’s family travelled from Liverpool and it was a relief not to have to think about where they could stay,” says Camilla.

“Bru Columbanus kept the family together and it kept us hopeful. The support was immense. My in-laws came from the UK and my sister came from Sweden.

“It was wonderful that we could all sit together. We had a section of the fridge in the big kitchen and all the cooking facilities. It seemed important at that time to have our own things.”

The Vearncombes and their extended family weren’t the only ones.

“Other people who were there supported us,” says Camilla. “We all supported each other. That was important too. The boys, Max, Marius and Milan, were able to stay at Bru Columbanus. We had two big rooms.”

Nearest and dearest stayed close.

“My son’s girlfriend’s mother, from Kinsale stayed at the house too,” says Camilla, who understands the awful aftermath of loss.

“We lost our close friend Fergus O’Farrell, the front man of the band Interference, in February, only weeks after we lost Colin,” says Camilla.

“I lost my mother, Martha, that year too.”

Camilla utilises the talents of her loved ones to great advantage for some very worthy causes.

“Fergus’s anniversary concert in Vicar Sreet in February was a sell-out,” says Camilla.

The anniversary concert in the Opera House on May 5 was a sell out too. €14,000 was raised for both Bru Columbanus and Schull Community Hospital.

“Music is so important,” says Camilla. “Max is a singer as well. He was involved. In adverse situations, music makes you so present.”

Apart from the launch of Colin’s Coin on May 27, there is another special event planned for the day before.

“We are celebrating Colin’s Birthday on May 26 at our home in Schull,” says Camilla.

“He would be 55 years old. The celebration will be a big party bringing our close community together. The love and support from our community is overwhelming. For that, we will always be grateful. We all need our friends.

Enibas has unveiled a special commemorative pendant for Colin Vearncombe (Black) fans around the world with all proceeds going to Cork based charity Brú Columbanus. Picture. Emma Jervis Photography
Enibas has unveiled a special commemorative pendant for Colin Vearncombe (Black) fans around the world with all proceeds going to Cork based charity Brú Columbanus. Picture. Emma Jervis Photography

“My dad and my sisters will come to the party.”

Colin is near.

“We built a sanctuary for his ashes,” says Camilla. “Some of his ashes are in his native Liverpool. The sanctuary is a beautiful place to come and sit.”

It was a joint effort for the man who gave them a wonderful life.

“The boys were involved in building the sanctuary,” says Camilla.

“A tribute album for Colin is in the process of being planned.”

Camilla is glad some Irishness is infused into Colin’s pendant.

Jeweller Sabine said: “Although the pendant was inspired by a piece Colin himself wore as his good luck charm, we wanted to infuse some Irishness in it as not only Ireland, and in particular, West Cork loved by Colin.”

“Our own jewellery designs are known for their meaningful Gaelic inscriptions. What better way to acknowledge Colin’s life and music than inscribing ‘Saol Iontach’ on the piece as a reminder to those that wear it of how precious life is.” 

Funds are precious to Bru Columbanus.

“We are so delighted and so grateful to the family and to Sabine for the amount of work that they have all put in to design this wonderful piece,” says Anne Marie O’Connor, Bru Columbanus.

“We shall welcome the funds from the proceeds of the sale of the pendent. We are a small charity, 26 bedrooms, that service all the hospitals of Cork. Bru Columbanus is accessible from all the hospitals by bus or by walking. Bru Columbanus is homely.

“We feel the homeliness element is important and that people have use of the kitchen to cook their own meals. Everyone is in the same situation at a difficult time and they get solace from each other.” Everyone chips in.

“We have a full-time staff of just three and over 70 volunteers who give freely of their time to run the house and charity,” says Anne- Marie.

“Since 2005 we have supported 6,670 families from all over Ireland. Each day we have to turn people away as we always full to capacity.

"The money from the pendent will go towards our running costs which will exceed €300,000 per annum.”

“It feels good to give something back,” says Camilla.

Colin's pendants, are sterling silver and will be individually numbered, they will retail for €69 on a leather chain or €75 on a silver chain.

9ct gold pieces retail at €198 on a leather chain, and €398 on a gold chain.

They can be pre-ordered online at and will be in Enibas stores from May 29.

Anyone seeking to contact Bru Columbanus, Wilton, call  021-4345254.

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