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. We also did a little question and answer piece which you may find amusing and hopefully, informative. We hope you enjoy reading!
Facts About Daniel
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: On a good day 12st 8, on a bad day who knows!!!
Marital Status: Married to Majella
Children: 2 Stepchildren – Siobhan & Michael
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 Majella
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
Daniel The Entertainer
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 andit 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 in 1992 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.