On this page we hope to tell you a little about Daniel, where he comes from
and what life was like for him growing up. A lot of what you read in this section
will be taken from Daniels book “My Story”, so you may have read it
before. It is more of a personal account rather than what he has achieved in
his career. You will find more details about him on the Rosette Records website
(rosetterecords)We also did a little
question and answer piece which you may find amusing and hopefully, informative.
We hope you enjoy reading!
Name: Daniel Francis Noel O Donnell
Date of Birth: 12th December 1961
Place of Birth: Dungloe, Co Donegal, Ireland
Mother: Julia O Donnell (nee McGonagle)
Father: Francis O Donnell
Siblings: John, Margaret (Margo), Kathleen and James
Colour of Eyes: Blueish Green
Colour of Hair: Brown
Height: 5ft 10in
Weight: 12st 13lbs (Too much!)
Marital Status: Married to Majella
Children: 2 Stepchildren – Siobhan 25yrs & Michael 22yrs
Currently Residing: Kincasslagh, Co Donegal, Ireland
Favourite Colour: Yellow
Favourite Foods: Mince and Potatoes and some Chinese dishes
Best-loved Artists: Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride and Sir Cliff Richard
All time favourite Song: There are so many but I love “Miss you
nights” by Sir Cliff Richard
Worst Habit: Now, would I have any bad habits??!!!
Best Habit: Where do I begin!
Worst Asset: My growing love handles!
Best Asset: My teeth
Pet Hates: Smoking followed by gossip
Favourite Passtime: Playing Cards and Golf
Fondest Memory: The first time I met Loretta Lynn. Wow!
Worst Memory: The night I lost my voice in December 1991
Favourite Holiday Destination: Tenerife
Favourite Movie: Gandhi, The Sound of Music and Calamity Jane
Favourite Saying: Up ya boy ya!
Happiest Day of my Life: 4th November 2002 – The day I married
My early years were spent during an era when the world seemed to revolve much
slower, at least in Kincasslagh where I grew up. Ireland was a poor country
at the time, things were being slowly modernized. But it is a testament to my
parents’ love and dedication to their children that our childhood memories
are all happy ones. The only dark cloud in our lives was the sudden death of
my father Francie when I was just a wee lad of six, the youngest in the family.
My father was born in Acres near Burtonport in County Donegal. My mother, Julia,
came from the little Island of Owey, just off the coast, near Kincasslagh where
she now lives with my sister Kathleen, her husband John and their children.
They wed in 1948 and went on to bring five little O Donnell’s into the
world. I was born on 12th December 1961. I have two brothers and two sisters.
John is the eldest followed by Margaret (Margo) then Kathleen and James.
My first home was a lovely old house across the road from where my mother now
lives in Kincasslagh. I used to sleep in a wee room off the kitchen. There were
pots hanging from a crook over the open fire in the sitting room. There was
no water and no toilet, which is quite incredible considering it’s not
that long ago. In fact, there was only one house in our area that I recall having
a flush toilet when I was growing up. Our toilet was across the road –
a tin hut! We moved into a new council house in 1967, a year before my father
died. It was a bungalow on the site of my mothers’ current dormer home.
Although I was six years old when my father died from a heart attack at forty-nine,
the only memories I seem to have are of him going away and returning home. Like
many family men in our area, he was forced to emigrate in order to provide for
the family, because there wasn’t enough work in Kincasslagh. He worked
on farms in Scotland. It was hard, manual labour and a far cry from my own lifestyle
today. When he died, my mother lost her partner in life and was left alone to
shoulder the responsibility of rearing us. The love and admiration I hold for
my mother knows no bounds because she ensured we never wanted for anything.
Thinking back, my first day at school in 1967 doesn’t stand out as being
a traumatic experience for me. The school was a mile-and-a half from my home,
so it was a long walk. We had tillies (lamps) in the early morning during the
winter months to light up the rooms. We had the old inkwells on the desks and
it was a frightening affair when we had to progress from writing with pencils
to negotiating with ink and nibs. You weren’t allowed biros. I never disliked
school. It was never a case of not wanting to go and I didn’t find learning
difficult. I wouldn’t have been a genius, but I had the ability to learn.
I suppose I was average as people go, intelligence-wise. School took nothing
out of me really. As far as a career was concerned, I was good at maths in secondary
school and consequently I thought about the bank as a career. I was interested
in teaching, but singing was always a possibility.
I suspect people have the impression that my mother kept me hanging on to her
apron strings when I was a kid, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
She wasn’t at all overprotective. I had great freedom, a terrific childhood
the same as everyone else in our area. I was always in and out of neighbours’
houses when I was a child and I was full of news. I was like a newspaper on
feet. I’d sit listening to people talking and I’d carry all the gossip
of the neighbourhood. And you know, now, I have no time for gossip or for people
who spread gossip.
From about the age of nine I went to work in the Cope, which is a general store
in our area, and I earned a weekly wage of 2 pounds. I got to know everyone
around the district through the Cope. I loved working there but if there’s
one chore I hated as a child, it was cutting turf in the bog (peatland), to
be used as fuel for the fire. A day in the bog was a nightmare to me as I never
got to grips with the skills required. It meant a team effort, and I have to
work at my own pace. I wasn’t into manual jobs. I worked in the Cope every
summer till I was fourteen years old and I saved my weekly wage for my holidays
at the end of August. Then I’d head off on the boat alone to Scotland,
where I stayed with relatives in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Callendar.
Christmas, for me, centred around the church as I always sang in the choir,
even as a child. I always feel a real closeness to people in church and Christmas
Eve in the chapel was something special. Religious occasions like First Communion
and Confirmation were among the highlights of our childhood years. They were
special occasions, not just in the religious sense but also as events to be
celebrated. When I received my First Communion, there was no family outing to
a posh restaurant. We went home after church and had the normal family meal.
We didn’t have a car in those days, but really, we didn’t need one.
There was no place to go!
I used to spend my summers with my granny on the little island of Owey which
is now uninhabited. I’d wake up in the morning on the island and I’d
hear the sound of fishermen going away to haul lobster pots or nets. The island
was lovely. The views were just fantastic. You could sit for hours just marveling
at the world around you. There were a few houses you’d go to at night to
pass the time and have the craic (a Gaelic term meaning fun). The acting that
used to go on in those houses was something else! They would be telling ghost
stories and you’d be rattling with fear on your way home. Granny eventually
came to live with us in Kincasslagh until she died in 1971.
My Teenage Years
My interest in music and fashion really started to develop when I became a
teenager. It’s a time when you begin taking notice of your appearance and
you cast an eye at the opposite sex. There were dances at the village hall and
I was allowed out to them, but all the old ones would be at them too. I had
girlfriends, but we were fierce innocent, not like the kids nowadays. The Ceili
(traditional dancing) was a very popular form of entertainment in our area when
I was growing up. I enjoyed it. It was better than an ordinary dance, because
you could go and dance with anyone in a ‘set’ without asking first.
It was a great opportunity to slip in beside someone you fancied.
When I finished secondary school I went on to Galway Regional College, but
I couldn’t relate to it at all because there was no relationship with the
teachers or the lecturers. You had to take responsibility for your own education
and I wasn’t used to that. I was very unhappy at college and I longed for
home. I used to hitch home every weekend or take the bus. The summer before
I started college, I had a great time when I went down to Dublin to work. We
used to go to dances every night and the Irish Club on Sunday afternoons. It
was a marvelous time. I was eighteen-and-a half and I really was as happy as
Larry. So the fact of being away from home was not really the problem in Galway.
I was doing a business studies course in college and I had planned to go on
to university and maybe take up teaching. But I just didn’t fit in. As
I have said already, I couldn’t get used to having to take responsibility
for my own education and I never settled down. Before the first Christmas in
college, I met my sister Margaret in the local hotel and I told her that I was
unhappy and that I wanted to leave college and become a singer. Margaret had
already established a very successful singing career. She was known the length
and breath of Ireland as Margo, she was a household name. Margaret started singing
when I was only 1 year old. Everybody in Ireland knew who she was. Back then,
she was as well known as Cliff Richard is in the U.K. She had the same level
of success in Ireland then that I would have now. It was through Margaret that
I developed my interest in the music of the showbands. So, when I decided to
leave college, Margaret agreed that I could join her band. This was Christmas
of 1980 and it was a momentous time in my life because that’s when I decided
to become am entertainer.
Daniel The Entertainer
I don’t know whether you would call it ambition, but I certainly had a
hugh determination to succeed. I got very little encouragement when I started
out because people thought that my music was from a bygone era and had no relevance
or place in the world today. I felt they were wrong and I was right because
I have succeeded in doing what I wanted to do. I first stepped on stage with
Margaret’s band on 28th January 1982 with an electric guitar that I couldn’t
play! One of the members of the band tried to teach me but there was no point.
All I wanted to do was sing. I was allowed to sing out front sometimes and I
loved the applause. It was like a drug and I was getting hooked. I learned a
lot about the music business when I was in Margo’s band. There comes a
time when you have to take a gamble to achieve whatever it is you want and gamble
I did. I told Margaret that I was planning to leave and become a singer in my
I decided to make my own record in 1983 and I had nothing at the time. I had
saved enough money to make a record and that was it. On 9th February 1983, I
went into the studios and I recorded four tracks: ‘My Donegal Shore’,
‘Stand Beside Me’, ‘London Leaves’ and ‘Married By
The Bible’. When it came to releasing a single, I went for ‘My Donegal
Shore’ and ‘Stand Beside Me’. It was certainly humble beginnings
because I sold every one of those records myself. In July 1983 I formed my first
group, Country Fever. I remember the first night we played, I had the entire
set of songs finished by one o’clock in the morning and we were booked
to play till two o’clock. So I started again with the first song and sang
the whole lot a second time! In June 1984, after Country Fever, I formed a band
called The Grassroots. I also got myself a manager called Nan Moy, who had managed
Margo. She wasn’t doing anything after finishing with Margaret and that’s
when she decided to get involved with me. I played everywhere and anywhere.
In the time we were together, The Grassroots didn’t achieve anything on
the Irish scene, but things were happening for us in England. We were playing
there a lot but we still weren’t making much money and it was a hard struggle.
Eventually the time came when I had to make a very difficult decision. I would
have to leave Nan and try to move up to the next level. It wasn’t a decision
I enjoyed taking, but we were never going to get anywhere together.
I was turned down by numerous managers in those early days. I went to a number
of people and none of them could see anything in me. I played at the 1985 Irish
Festival in London and my performance caught the attention of Mick Clerkin.
He contacted me and said he was interested in recording an album for his label
Ritz. I felt that, to progress, Mick needed to take over the management of my
career as well, so I rang him that December looking for an appointment to make
my case. Mick decided that the Ritz organization would take me on and it was
a huge relief as the thought of giving up my dream had crossed my mind. Mick
introduced me to Sean Reilly, the manager he thought would suit me. That day
certainly changed my life because Sean is a very special man and I would go
to the ends of the earth with him. He is still my manager to this day. My career
continued to grow and grow and it became more and more demanding. When we started
doing the concert tours in England, it was six nights a week, every week. It
really was too much. I was the type of person who just couldn’t say no.
I did everything I was asked to and more. I could see that all my hard work
was yielding results but eventually, the pressure of all the commitments began
to take its toll on my health.
On New Year’s Day in1992 I went to Sean (my manager) and I told him that
I needed to take a break. “That’s fine Daniel. Leave it with me”
he said. At the time, I was near to cracking up from doing too much work. It
was literally too much. I kept saying ‘yes, yes, yes’, to everything.
Apart from the shows, I was visiting people who were sick or disabled, calling
here, there and everywhere. Now this was a pressure I brought upon myself, because
I really don’t have to do all those things. I wanted to do them, and I
thought I could handle it all, but at the end of the day, the human body can
only take so much.
A whole series of factors and events aided my recovery over a period of more
than two years, although I was able to return to the stage after a break of
three months. Physically, I didn’t feel an awful lot better but I felt
well enough to sing again. My official return to the stage was at The Point
in Dublin. Now, I never imagined that I would ever perform there. It’s
a venue that just didn’t seem to be within my reach. Like everything else,
I left the decision up to Sean. If he thinks I can do something, then I’ll
go along with it. He’s never been wrong before. So we decided that Daniel
O Donnell was going to perform at The Point on Saturday 11th July 1992. There
were many people there that night who had never seen me perform before. The
Point was a good showcase for me as well as being a tremendous night.
I’ve never sung to make money. When I’m performing I never think
about how much I’m making on the night. I sing because I love it and the
money is just a by-product of what I do. My biggest payment is being on the
stage and that is a big part of the secret of my success. If it all ended tomorrow,
I couldn’t say there is anything the world could have offered me that is
better than what I have. Being a ‘personality’ is, I suppose, what
I have become as a result of my success as a singer. I do feel that I have handled
it well because I haven’t allowed it to change me as a person. I like to
keep things as normal as possible in my life because that’s just the way
I am. I am very lucky to be able to enjoy family life and be part of a local
community when I’m not working.
While I stay in fairly good shape for the stage, I’m not a keep-fit fanatic
and my choice of foods is not particularly healthy. I like fried onions with
steak and chips. I don’t like vegetables or salads very much. I don’t
drink tea or coffee but I used to love tea and I had a reputation for drinking
lots of it. On a day when I’m working I would boil the kettle and have
hot water and a bar of chocolate.
There are no words to describe the feelings that I get from an audience when
I perform on stage. It is heaven on earth to me. Without the people who follow
me I would not have this life. They say that when you ‘re doing a job that
you love, you never work a day in your life. Well, that is certainly the case
with me. I have never worked since I became an entertainer. So I have a great
respect and great love for the people who follow Daniel O Donnell the entertainer.
I have been lucky to receive many awards, but the one I hold dearest to my heart
is the ‘Donegal Person of the Year’. That still rates as the best
award I have received during my career. Why is it so special? Well, it’s
because it honours me as a person from Donegal. I love Donegal more than anywhere
else in the world. To think that honour was mine in 1989! Another entertainment
award that means a lot to me is the Irish Entertainer of the Year’, which
I’ve won three times, in1989, 1992 and 1996. It means so much to me because
it’s also an award that’s voted for by the people. I’ve always
loved meeting the people after shows. Sometimes now I feel that I am meeting
people too quickly and I would love to be able to say, ‘We need to slow
this down’. I know we can’t slow it down because you’d be there
all night. I do a long show and meeting people is not the norm for the majority
of performers. So I know we have to keep it quick and that I can just go and
say a quick ‘Hello’ to people and have a picture taken.
In the autumn of 1999 I was on holiday in Tenerife. I went to a local bar run
by friends of mine, Tom and Marion Roche, as I always do. Their daughter Majella
had been in the restaurant during one of my visits and we were briefly introduced.
I thought nothing in particular of the encounter. Majella was there again another
night and we got chatting. She was great company. I felt like we had known each
other all our lives. It was a very laid-back evening and I regarded Majella
as a woman who was great craic (fun) to be around. She was down-to-earth, funny
and very much her own person with an understated self-confidence. I invited
Majella to come with some friends and me as we set off to continue the fun of
the night in the local bars. The thought of developing a relationship with Majella
still hadn’t crossed my mind as she took up my offer. By the end of the
holiday, after spending endless hours together, I realized that I had become
emotionally involved with Majella. We both had different lives thousands of
miles apart, but we agreed to keep in touch by phone when I left to go back
to my other life on stage.
We continued our long-distance romance down the line. Majella and I would talk
endlessly about nothing on the phone. The communication we had and still have
is wonderful. The most striking problem at that time for me was that Majella
has been previously married, although she had by now been separated and was
going through a divorce for four years. From a religious point of view, this
was something that posed difficulties for me and I was grappling with my conscience
over the whole thing. I eventually made the tough decision to step back from
the romance. Naturally, given the love, affection and esteem I had for Majella,
I was very keen to maintain the friendship. Again, Majella was happy to remain
friends. Over the course of the year I holidayed on Tenerife and met up with
Majella. There was no denying that I absolutely loved her company. Well, I finally
came to my senses in April 2001 while taking another break on the island. We
were together and I realized that, yes, we were a great couple and we were very
happy together. Sometimes you do have to overcome a lot of obstacles in your
quest for the best things in life. And only a fool would turn down the opportunity
to find true happiness. Without realizing it, Majella and I had drifted back
into being a couple again. I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my
life with her because I loved her.
At Christmas time that year I was on top of the world. I’d had a charmed
life, but now I was so much happier with Majella being a part of it. When Christmas
Day came round I was like a hen on a hot griddle. Unknown to Majella I was about
to take our relationship to the next stage. Before we sat down for Christmas
dinner I said to Majella, ‘Phone you mother’. Majella went up stairs
to make the call and after a couple of minutes I followed her. They were speaking
when I entered the room and I took the phone and said to her mother, ‘Marion,
do you know what I’m going to do now. I’m going to put a ring on your
daughter’s finger. And that’s what I did. It’s a Christmas Day
neither of us will ever forget. I was extremely happy, unbelievably happy, really.
In fact, I was so content and so happy it was almost sickening. We were married
on Monday 4th November 2002 and we had the most fantastic day of our lives.
What the future holds for me I don’t know. Right now I intend to enjoy
every moment of the wonderful opportunities that are starting to come my way
in America. It is a great surprise at this stage of my career to be branching
out in new directions, while still enjoying a loyal following in the other places
I have been performing all of my life since I embarked on this wonderful journey.
A sincere thank you to everyone who makes it possible for me to live this dream
and I hope our paths will cross along the way.