A mother, a granny, a businesswoman and a wife to one of the most famous men in the country. Donegal Woman caught up with the inspiring Majella O’Donnell recently to get an insight into her life.
We all remember the courageous image of that night on ‘The Late Late Show’ when she heroically revealed to the nation that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and that she was going to have her head shaved, live on television. For me, before that moment, I literally knew very little about Majella other than she was Daniel O’Donnell’s wife. That night I shed a tear for her bravery and I became very interested in who this woman was. Majella had instantly become much more than the woman who married Daniel for the people of Ireland. She was an outrageously brave and kind woman who wanted to use her situation to raise money for cancer charities in Ireland.
Now we are three years on from that night on the late late show, Majella has thankfully been given the all clear. This year we have watched the famous couple on their ‘B&B Road Trip’ hit TV show which resulted in the duo picking up an IFTA for their on screen antics. We have seen both Daniel and Majella dancing on the television separately on both The Late Late Show and Strictly Come Dancing. Thanks to social media we even knew when the pair were heading off on holidays; such is the level of interest that has risen from their warming on screen nature.
Recently I heard Majella speaking on local radio, depression was the topic being discussed and when I tuned in she was talking about mindfulness. Majella has founded ‘Donegal Mind Wellness’ in conjunction with the HSE which is something Donegal is sure to vastly benefit from.
Donegal Woman recently caught up with Majella in the beautiful Waterfront Hotel in Dungloe – not too far from where she and Daniel reside. We spoke about everything from being a grandmother, founding a charity and her own signature style. She has also given us some ‘exclusive’ pictures from her daughter’s magnificent wedding day.
“Majella , 2016 has been a big year for you, what would you say have been the highlights so far?”
“There have been quite a few highlights for me over the past year. It was really enjoyable and a special year for Daniel and myself. We set off on our around the world cruise last January. It started in Los Angeles and ended up in Dubai. It was a four month trip and it was truly amazing. After Daniel and I got back, we were straight into shooting the B&B Road trip series two, which is great fun.
Another highlight was our Nomination for the IFTA for our B&B Road Trip, which we won, that was fantastic.”
Majella goes on to tell Donegal Woman that perhaps one of the greatest highlights, is being able to spend lots of time with her granddaughter Olivia. “Olivia is now 15 months and she really is the love of our lives.”
“Can you tell us about ‘Donegal Mind Wellness’ which you have founded?”
“Donegal Mind Wellness is a charity that I set up because I wanted to try and help people. People in their everyday lives, not sick people or people with ‘problems’ but everybody. The stresses and strains of life today are enormous, life years ago was much harder, tougher; but there wasn’t the mental buzz of social media going on all the time. If you say or do something now, it’s out there for thousands of people to see, in that respect it is very tough especially for younger people.
I wanted to set up the charity, to see what I could do. I am in a position where I can raise money for charity, whether it is through myself doing talks or Daniel at different events.
Within the Donegal Mind Wellness we have a program at the moment called stress management, it is a six week program that is free to everyone. We are trying to do it in as many places around the county that we can. The website is www.donegalmindwellness.ie The website tells you all about the stress management course and the details of where they are coming up. I am so passionate about it because it just teaches you how to deal with the stresses of life. It helps people who aren’t sleeping great, panic attacks, people who are just fed up and much more. It just helps you deal with the stuff going on in your mind.
I say to people that they should go on it, and they say “Oh I will tell so and so to go on it, They’d appreciate it because she has ‘problems’ at home”. I say no, you go on it; it’s not for people who have problems. It’s for people who have stress and that’s everyone. I really would like Donegal Women, people who are at home and up to their eyeballs with kids or debt or whatever to go on this course because, it helps to manage the stress that we all have in our day to day lives. The course is completely free and is on once a week for an hour and a half over six weeks. People who go along to the course don’t even have to talk, they can just go along and listen the speaker and take away their booklet at the end of the night. They can then take the techniques they learned on the course and use them at home.
Once that they have done that I recommend that they tell their friends and family if they have benefited from the course and they can then encourage others to do it.”
I have read previously that you said battling depression was tougher than it was dealing with your cancer. For any of our readers suffering from cancer, depression or any other illness at the moment what words of encouragement would you give to them?”
First Majella tells us her experience with cancer.
“With a physical illness like cancer, focus on today. If you get a diagnosis like cancer deal with what information you have today. If you get told ‘we might do further tests’ – take it as it is. Don’t start going down the road of ‘what if’. Of course that is very hard not to do, but try and deal with the moment. Some people will get a diagnosis and will have themselves dead and buried before they know what is coming down the line. They put themselves through that misery unnecessarily.
When I was told I had cancer, I thought right ok what can I do now. I was having an operation in four weeks’ time and we were going to take the lump out, so at that moment there was little that I could do. Once the lump had been removed I could then deal with the result of the biopsy. Trying to stay positive and not dwelling on the diagnosis in between an operation and treatment is very important. You have to stop thinking on the worst and try to stay positive, which is very hard. Just take one day at a time. There will be days when you feel rubbish from the treatments, but maybe tomorrow you will feel a little better. “
Majella then goes on to give Donegal Woman her experience with depression.
“When I am depressed, I find it a very dark place to be but eventually I know that the cloud will always lift.I would advise people to get out there walking is a fantastic thing. Appreciate the small things in life. Try to believe that we all have good in our lives, something to be grateful for. Try and be grateful for whatever you have in your life, whether it be healthy kids or a great partner or whatever it may be. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.”
“Daniel and yourself are about to see the hugely popular B&B Road Trip return to our screens again, what can we expect from this series? We absolutely love the on-screen banter with the pair of you. The unscripted nature of the show is really refreshing and I am sure this is one of the main reasons why it has been such a hit. Also, who knew Daniel was such a devil?!”
“I always knew that we would work well if we were on television together, because we are so different. I am more of a devil than Daniel, he has a great sense of humour. I love to tease him and set him up.
I knew when they came up with the idea for the B&B Road Trip, that it would be great fun. It’s totally unscripted. It’s refreshing because of the unscripted nature. People love to see Daniel in his every day self and me doing all the crazy things. People love to see how Daniel reacts to it.”
“We have seen the beautiful pictures earlier this year of your daughter Siobhan getting married in Spain. What was the experience of being the mother of the bride like for you? Did it take you long to find the stunning dress for the occasion?
“It was emotional, wonderful and I was so happy. Siobhan’s husband is a lovely guy and the day was lovely. I got an invite and that was nice, it was Siobhan’s day and It was magical. I was very emotional when she walked down the aisle it was just perfect.
The blue dress was designed and made specially by Julian McDonald who is a renowned designer in the UK.. Daniel and I were at a charity auction and one of the auction prize’s was two tickets for London Fashion week, back stage passes and a couture dress designed just for you. Daniel won the prize and I went over to London and met Julian and we sat down together and discussed what I wanted. He designed it to suit me. I felt like a queen in the dress. “
“How would you describe your signature style? What would be your go to day time staples? Also, when you go glamorous do you have a Designer or shop that never fails you?”
“I go everywhere for my clothes. I go into the Cope in Dungloe, McElhinneys, Dunnes Stores, Penneys, anywhere. I don’t care about fashion; I wear what is comfortable and is good for me.
If I wear a dress, it has to be just below my knee; my knees are bad. I like colour, colours that are good for me. I like to wear coral; people always complement me when I wear colours that suit me. I wear good colours and clothes to complement my figure. Apart from that I will shop anywhere.
For more glamorous occasions I don’t like to pay more than €400 because I can only wear it once or twice. I just want something that is a good shape and a good colour for me. I’m really boring like that, I am happy to find something that suits me.
Something that I do feel is important in your wardrobe is a good handbag and good shoes. I used to have a shoe obsession. I was always buying lots of different shoes. My daughter said to me ‘Mum stop buying rubbish shoes, buy a nice pair of Christian Louboutin shoes, in black or nude. So I did and I haven’t had to buy any other shoes since.”
“Majella you have been with us in Donegal now since 2002, where are your favourite places to go in the county. (This can be anything from restaurants, spa’s, hotels, etc)”
“When we come home we just like to relax. When we are away traveling or on the road, we are constantly eating out, going places, and seeing people so when we come home we just like to be at home. We just like to relax, potter around the house and do our chores.
I love Donegal, I think it’s the most beautiful county and I think the people are the real salt of the earth.
Owey Island is somewhere I go during the summer months. It’s where Daniel’s mother is from. Around ten years ago people started going out and doing up cottages to use during the summer. I go out around May time and then close up in August or September. When I am out on Owey Island, I enjoy walking, reading and painting. There is a real sense of community on Owey and we all help each other out. At night we sometimes we have card nights, wine tastings, quiz nights etc. Owey Island is a beautiful place. I love Donegal and I am so glad it’s my home.”
Majella is looking forward to getting some recipes from our website over the coming months.