Belfast Telegraph

Siobhan McGarry: Mum? she's the best!

UTV reporter Siobhan McGarry (40) lives in Lurgan with partner Lawrence Mulholland (40), and children Ruairi (19), Eolann (16) and Mainie (3)

UTV reporter Siobhan McGarry (40) lives in Lurgan with partner Lawrence Mulholland (40), and children Ruairi (19), Eolann (16) and Mainie (3)

Everybody says that their mum is the best in the world - but mine definitely is. She has always been there for me, no matter what. She's thoughtful, kind, a great listener and a tower of strength. My sister, Mary, and I are very close to our mum. We're close to our dad, too, but I think there's something special about the mother-daughter relationship. When I was growing up, anywhere mum went I went too. My brothers, Dermot and Martin, would say I was rather spoilt. Mary, who's 10 years older, was away at boarding school and I was always wrapped around my mum's legs.

Every time I went shopping with her I always managed to come home with something new for myself.

Mum was always a working mum - she and dad had a restaurant in Lurgan and at times we envied a neighbour who didn't work, and seemed to be always baking. We'd visit her and enjoy the buns she made - however, if we thought we missed out in one way, we gained in so many others.

Before mum and dad opened their restaurant they had a chip van and we'd go everywhere with them during the holidays. We went to big events like motorbike racing and we perched on top of the van.

I have so many wonderful childhood memories and perhaps our first summer holiday, abroad to sunny Benidorm, when I was about seven, stands out. Mum kitted me out in a flamenco dress and I thought I was the bee's knees - yet I can't imagine what I really looked like!

Mum and dad made sure that, although they worked full-time, we always had family holidays. Of course we didn't always go abroad, but we certainly always had a great time. We would go to Cork to visit relations and we had all sorts of games along the journey. Mum would start little competitions like, who is the first who can think of a song with a bird in it?

My dad bought a gramophone on one holiday and it came with a record - which we played constantly from Galway to Belfast. We'd learnt it by heart by the time we got home.

Mum was very supportive right through school. She encouraged me to follow my ambition. We could talk about anything to her. There were no taboo subjects. When we took a drink, we did so in modesty and I think that perhaps kids going out and getting plastered today is a result of them not talking to their parents and being afraid to broach subjects.

Mum is my best friend and it's difficult to keep anything from her. Even when you try to she instinctively thinks something is up and asks if anything is wrong.

The only thing she managed to keep secret from me was my 40th surprise birthday party - and it nearly killed her.

Perhaps the fact that my mum worked instilled in me the desire to have a career. Although I worked for quite some time in the family restaurant, I had always wanted to be a journalist and when my boys were at school I decided to go to college. I worked for five years with GMTV, first with Reuters and then ITN, and now I am freelance and work for UTV.

Mum and dad were a tremendous support to me through all of this and were always around to make sure the boys weren't standing around at the school gates waiting for ages to be picked up.

I am lucky in that I work more or less part-time now, about three days a week. I don't think I could stay at home all the time but it's nice to have some time at home with Mainie.

I never really wanted to stay at home full time with my children - and it's thanks to that unsung army of grandparents who make it possible for me and so many others to go out to work.

My siblings and I were growing up in the 1960s when things were changing for the better in that mothers had a choice: they could go to work if they wanted to, and my dad was very supportive of mum doing that. Mum's generation broke the mould in going out to work and sharing the workload with my dad. Now it's almost frowned upon if you don't work, which is utterly ridiculous because a full-time mum is such a big job and I take my hat off to anyone who can do it.

There was an expectation in the 1990s that you couldn't be a mum and hold down a full-time job. Things have almost turned full circle again where it's cool to be a stay-at-home mum these days.

Mum is loving her chance now to spend time with her granddaughter. I certainly see some of my own mother-daughter relationship now with Mainie. Mum encouraged me to get involved in activities virtually from the crib like dancing and singing. My little girl has recently started ballet and it's amazing to see her doing all those little girlie things as well. If Mainie has as happy a childhood as I had she'll be doing very well.

I suppose as you get older certain roles change, for instance while mum always dressed me as a child I now dress her to an extent. It's nice to have that relationship where you can say, 'that's just not right on you, mum'.

That's what I love about having a little girl of my own after two boys - somewhere along the line when I have purple hair and red lipstick, she'll say, 'no, mum, you can't go out like that'.

I'm also very lucky to have a fit and active mum. She's 71 yet she has more energy than I have at times. That's brilliant for my children.

My boys think nothing of taking gran and grandad out for dinner and enjoying good craic together. They can confide in her and know she'll always have time to listen. I've never heard anything but praise for her.

There are people out there who don't have that support or closeness. My heart goes out to those who don't have someone they can pick up the phone to. Perhaps they don't have a daughter or their mum has died. We're so fortunate - we talk on the phone every day and see each other nearly every day.

And of course, as well as the happy times, we're there for each other in the sad times. Mum recently lost her brother and that was tough. He'd been ill for quite some time but we remember the good times. We all went to the funeral in Cork and got things organised. It's times like that when the family bonds kick in and you help each other.

There were also sad times when mum and dad's restaurant was caught up in a bomb in 1992 and again the family rallied round to salvage what we could and pick ourselves up again. But you have more good memories than bad.

She was a tower of strength, too, when my marriage broke up (Siobhan's children Ruairi and Eolann are from her marriage to Aiden). She never judged but was just there for my support. Mum and dad instilled in us the importance of dusting yourself down, picking yourself up and getting on with things. You don't wallow in the corner. No one wants to listen to a sad story for too long. You have to get on with life.

These days, mum and I love going out shopping together, to lunch or a daytrip somewhere. And later in the year we'll go off for a week with my sister - all the girls together!

I gain so much from mum now, and she's quite dependent on me for certain things like filling out forms. For anyone who is getting on a bit, it's nice for them if someone can call in and check they're all right.

What are her worst characteristics? That's a difficult question! I suppose she is bad at telling jokes - although I'm not far behind her. She also thinks it's extremely funny when she makes up her own jokes, but they are even worse.

On Mother's Day I hope we'll all be together and have a big family get-together. My brothers, my sister and as many of the grandchildren as possible, and we'll all celebrate together.

Hopefully all the men will let us put our feet up for the day.

÷For further information on the HUG appeal contact Help the Aged, tel: 9023 0666 or visit:

Her worst traits? i can't think of any ...

Siobhan's mother Bridie McNeice (71), and father Francis (71), live in Portadown. Bridie says:

Our four children are wonderful and we love spending time with our eight grandchildren. We always had excellent communication with our children Mary (McConville), Dermot, Siobhan (McGarry) and Martin, and that has continued until this day.

A mother's relationship with her daughter is certainly very special and I can testify to that. Mary and Siobhan are an absolute joy and we've shared so many precious times.

Siobhan is very outgoing and loved her dancing and drama classes as a child. She's a very genuine, sincere person and is never quick to judge anyone wrongly. She's always helping people and, for anyone in distress, she's a great comforter.

When Siobhan was born I was very pleased to have another girl. I didn't mind what my children were but I was very fortunate to have girls and boys in rotation!

Before the children started school I was at home most of the time with them. I was also looking after my mother who was ill.

But when my mother died I felt I had to do something to keep my mind active. My husband had bought a chip van and we decided that I would go along with him and help out. As it turned out, I was the first lady to take a chip van to Dungannon during the day and there was a story in the local paper about it. We took it to many places and I was able to work it out so that I would be home by the time the children came home from school.

We had many wonderful times as the children were growing up and many precious memories. We sent Mary, our eldest, to boarding school and on to university. In those days people wanted the best for their children. Siobhan went to primary and secondary school and did exam after exam.

Mary and Siobhan showed a talent for the stage. Siobhan went to elocution classes, speech and drama and ballet.

I have many outstanding memories of her growing up. She was a little actress and was on School Around the Corner in Portadown.

I remember Mary taking part in a competition in a hall in Portadown. Dancing a routine with a few other girls, she suddenly missed her step and stood aside while the others continued. Then she jumped back into the routine again as soon as she could and kept going. We thought she had blown it but the adjudicator announced that first prize was going to Mary McNeice because she showed great common sense to step back and not disrupt the others' dancing when she lost her step.

Siobhan used her elocution prowess to teach others and she was very, very good at it.

I think that this is one of her best characteristics, as well as her bright personality. She has a really good way with her.

I think that children have it better nowadays in one way but worse in another. For instance, they have so much now with all their DVDs and GameBoys while my children made up their own games and amusement.

But I think that parent-child communication is not as good as it used to be. Mothers and fathers are very hard-working and seem to need more money these days. But we never had any debt. We simply did without things which we couldn't pay for in full. People now don't want to wait and save up for what they want, but I was always taught never to get into debt.

There is more pressure on mothers today to go out to work. I think there could be some benefit in spending more time at home with their children and there should be more encouragement to them to do so. It's very important to spend a certain amount of time with them.

I absolutely love spending time with all our eight grandchildren. We love them all equally. Of course, Siobhan's daughter, Mainie, is just wonderful and great fun to be around.

I think that grandparents have a better time with their grandchildren then their own. When they're your own they are so time consuming but I have to say it went well with our family.

What are Siobhan's worst characteristics? I really can't think of any - and I couldn't even think of any for any of my family.

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