I was the firstborn in our family which is probably why I come across as the matriarchal figure when people watch Johnny’s Cottage online. You’d want to be up early every morning though to keep up with my sisters Miriam and Áine. As three siblings we have an absolute ball when broadcasting our live show on Facebook and I love cooking so the mix of food, fun and family to me is a perfect recipe.
It is always interesting watching back on our weekly antics to see what makes us sisters similar in humour but unique as people. We each have different stories but also overriding circumstances that have shaped who we are. We have shared so much of our lives online and as I get older my attitude to keeping up appearances has really relaxed. Jesus, Mary and Joseph I have broadcast live online wearing a swimsuit, in a bath and in my seventies. I am who I am and I like me for being me and it’s okay to celebrate that.
Everyone struggles at times and my struggles have shaped who you see today but I can guarantee you that in the many happy times I have had in the first seventy-odd years of my life one thing is clear, nearly all the happy memories revolve around family.
If interested, the next few paragraphs give you an insight into where I fit into the world. I had a tough childhood; we had very little as a family, looking back now you would say we were living in poverty. I knew from a very early age that I would forge a better life for myself having witnessed the hardships my parents and siblings suffered. I became very resourceful in my early years out of necessity and could cook and make my own clothes by watching and learning from the women in my life.
We all need food to survive and when we don’t have the ability to just pop into the shop or a restaurant for food then you build a strong relationship with harvesting your own and becoming self-sufficient. I loved making our own bread and fruitcake as a child and that continues to this day. Rest assured I also made some crap dishes on my culinary journey, haha.
I got married to the love of my life Sean when I was twenty, some of our kids say it was a shotgun wedding but this year we celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary, just to annoy them! Sean and I have reared eight children all of whom live close to us to this very day and still manage to call regularly to be fed. Bless them, they ensured we wouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves on the financial stakes, that’s for sure! To maintain a household of ten people is as trying as it sounds and you have to plough your own furrow and cook morning, noon and night.
Sean and I worked plenty of jobs over the years to survive and to keep food on the table but I always had a yearning to be my own boss. From the age of thirty-seven and forty-five I would have started, worked hard and ultimately failed with my first five business ventures. I would have accrued a lot of debt and had to move my entire family to London to try to pay off my debts and start afresh. Now it’s never too late to start anew, the fact that I was penniless with a large family and debtors after me only stoked the survival instincts within.
With a clapped-out car, a feisty Kerry attitude and an unwilling but available young workforce around the house I set up a cleaning company. ABC Cleaning started in 1995 and is still a successful business to this day spearheaded by one of my daughters and supported by two of her brothers. I am very proud of this business that we grew from nothing in London and become a Kerry enterprise that is highly respected and has created hundreds of jobs over the last few decades.
Being a provider has kept me strong and resilient in the most difficult of circumstances but we certainly did have plenty of funny times on the rollercoaster journey that is far from finished. Even though I am still part of the family business I now have allowed myself the time to do other interests. I have mentored many men and women in business over the last number of years advising them as best I can and encouraging them to believe more in themselves. I wrote my first book entitled ‘Survive and Thrive’ a few years ago, have a read if you can make the time for yourself.
My passion for home cooking has also returned and every day you will find me in the kitchen rustling up something because I want to. It’s fantastic that I can share my home and cooking with so many wonderful people online through Facebook and with this book. That said, I get the biggest buzz from the reactions and wonderful comments of people watching me and my sisters get up to all sorts on Johnny’s Cottage. Like life, nothing is rehearsed and what you see is what you get. Ladies and Gentlemen, I need a drink after writing all that.