I grew up here in Killough at my parents’ home, just up the road from Greenville, and the house and farm were inherited by my brother, Tim, who loved Killough as much as I do. We lost Tim in August 2019 and Killough has never been the same since.
In my late teens I studied for a BA at NUIM. I sometimes cried when I had to get the bus back to Dublin and, from there, to Maynooth. I read in French , Greek and Roman Civilization, Anthropology and English and graduated in 1989 with an Honors degree in English and Anthropology. I lived in Co. Kildare for nearly 10 years and made some good friends whom I am still close to today.
After my BA I was encouraged by Dr. Eileen Kane Head of the Department of Anthropology, to continue with my anthropological studies so I was accepted as a Doctoral student.
The subject matter was Irish academic life and it was a massive undertaking. My work was entitled ‘Academic Rites: An Anthropology of Contested Reproductions of Modern Irishness’. I interviewed over 20 senior professors, academics, and activists over an 8 year period on what had shaped their thinking about modern Irishness.
The research aimed to illustrate that most of their views were strongly conditioned by their early life experiences – their gender, age, occupation, location and social position. Clearly, you had radically different views on Irishness if you were, for example, a Unionist academic based at Queens University Belfast or an academic based in the History Department in University College Cork with a strong bias toward a post-colonial Republican approach to modern Irishness.
This is a very simplified account of what was, in the end, a several-hundred-page-long document which I successfully defended in 2000.
Among the people I interviewed for my research was the late Conor Cruise O’Brien; Professor Seamus Deane; Professor Joseph Lee; Professor Richard Kearney and Professor Roy Foster, among many others. I also interviewed our current President, Michael D. Higgins (then a Minister but formerly a Sociology lecturer at the National University Galway) and several leading academic feminists, including Dr. Aibhe Smyth ; Dr.Margaret Ward; Dr. Mary Cullen, among many others.
When Professor Hastings Donnan, my external examiner, asked me on the day of my viva what was I going to do next, I think he expected me to say publish the thesis or try for an academic job. But at that stage my focus was shifting and I did not have the institutional infrastructure I needed to get the work to publication.
I told him: “Open a fashion boutique”. He looked shocked!
And while I did work for a while at LIT Thurles in Sustainable Rural Development, and was central in organising a huge celebration of Tipperary for the Institute in 2000, my passion for fashion, art, and all things creative was bursting forth inside me.
The renovation of Greenville Cottage had ignited that creative spirit I had suppressed in almost 13 years of purely academic work. So, in 2004, I opened a café boutique in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary called The Business. This was a wonderful learning curve, and a truly exciting time in my life. I met fantastic people and my then partner now husband Seosamh Devine and we were blessed during that time with our first two sons, Don and Joss.
This was, however, the years leading up to the economic downturn in Ireland – the Celtic Tiger crash. We had invested everything we had and taken out loans to establish the shop and refurbish our home so, when the crisis happened, our respective businesses crashed too.
It was a most terrible time in my life and I am grateful we were able to keep going to try and sort out the mess of that time, and that our love for each other and our children kept us sane. I suppose you could call this the dark time of my life, and I often went to the late John O’Donoghue’s work ‘Anam Cara’ to help me through. My Mother was also a rock of support, as she was all through my life.
Community Work in Local Cultural Development
During this time another positive direction arose for me, when I got more involved in my local community, Killea, and got back involved in tourism and development work (I had been involved with a Tourist Board, Tipperary Heartlands, when I came back to live in Tipperary in 1996 / 1997).
I was elected Chair person of Killea Cultural Group in 2010 and the Committee raised several thousand euros in sponsorship for a new Heritage and Community Centre for the village of Killea. This was also helped through investment from North Tipperary Leader Partnership, an EU initiative to help growth in rural Ireland.
Since then I have focused on learning how to cook and bake, study Art History, learn more about the work of local artists, craftspeople and food and drink producers in Tipperary – and continued to maintain our home at Greenville by using part of it for summer time rentals advertised on Airbnb.
Our third child Etienne was born in 2012 and I feel privileged to have him, having suffered several distressing miscarriages. Greenville, has been a place of sanctuary throughout some tough periods and our three sons are the light of our lives.
I suppose this all brings me to where I am now – Greenville Style! I have always loved meeting and welcoming people on holiday in Tipperary and, in particular, love introducing them to our artisan foods and our cultural life. I am fortunate to be able to do this to-day and still care for my family and manage the details of our day to day life in the process.
And on the aside…
I am returning to study this September 2021 for an MA in Art History, Collections and Curation at UCD and am very excited about that. I still love fashion; love cooking and baking and obviously am deeply passionate about all areas of the Arts.