Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Bronagh Waugh on her mum coming out as gay and meeting dad for first time aged 23


By Martin Breen

Coleraine actress Bronagh Waugh has revealed how she first met her Canadian father when she was 23.

In an emotional interview with journalist Eamonn Mallie for his new UTV show, The Fall and Hollyoaks star tells how she never knew her dad growing up but tracked him down and sees him at least once a year now.

The 36-year-old, who recently had a starring role in ITV's Unforgotten, also speaks about later finding out her mum Bonnie was gay and why she herself is refusing to get legally married until same-sex marriage is legal in Northern Ireland.

Praising her mother for doing "a wonderful job" in raising her, Bronagh reveals her mum fell pregnant after meeting her father Kevin Hayes, who was a drag racer, cowboy and bear trapper, when on a gap year from university in Canada. Her mother left Canada to return home when she discovered she was expecting a child.

The actress, whose new film Steel Country, is out in cinemas soon, tells Mallie her mum felt "incredibly guilty" for leaving.

"She did it for all the right reasons and I am so glad she did because I had the upbringing I did. I think if I lived in northern Canada in this tiny oil town I wouldn't be the person that I am today and I wouldn't have had the experiences that I had," says the TV and film star, who has gained Canadian citizenship.

"When I was 23 I decided to go find him and discover him. I was always frightened to tell my mum that I wanted to meet him because I didn't want her to think that she wasn't enough. She of course was hugely supportive of that and she actually came with me to meet him.

"She wanted to ask for his forgiveness and apologise to him for taking me away and so she did. It was incredibly emotional. I will never forget the first time meeting my real father, which is such a strange thing to do."

Bronagh, who played Jamie Dornan's wife in The Fall, recalls seeing her father for the first time after he drove up to her aunt's house in Canada in his truck.

"The first thing I saw was these two cowboy boots. I saw this man, this little rotund guy with a cowboy hat on," she recalls.

"He took his hat off and tipped it at me and cocked his head and I felt something just pull in me. He held his hands out to me and I ran and I remember thinking, 'What am I doing?'

"I ran to him and it was this biological pull. I felt so intrinsically linked to him and he hugged and held me and swung me round and round. He touched every part of my face checking me.

"He just kept kissing me and going, 'You're perfect, you're perfect'. I became really emotional. This man had no choice and didn't get to know his daughter."

She tells the Eamonn Mallie Face to Face With programme how he forgave her mum for taking her away from him.

"The best and biggest life lesson I have ever learned from my biological father is forgiveness. After hugging me, my mum stood up on the veranda on the porch sobbing, watching it terrified of what he was going to say or do. She was shaking and he walked up with his arm around me with this big beam on his face.

"He came up to her and looked at her and said, 'Well Bonnie, thank you for doing such a beautiful job with our daughter'.

"She was in floods of tears and he hugged her and she hugged him and she said, 'I'm so so sorry, please forgive me.'

"He said, 'There is no time to think about the past, I'm only interested in looking forward into the future and I have her now and now I am interested in today and tomorrow'." In the programme, she tells Mallie about finding out as a 19-year-old that her mum was gay. "I understood more about why she found it easier to leave my dad. I think that was actually helpful for me. It helped put some puzzle pieces together," she tells him.

Her mother is now in a same-sex marriage but Bronagh herself is refusing to get legally married to her partner Richard Peacock until there is equal marriage here. The couple did "celebrate their love" in a wedding ceremony in September but it wasn't a legal marriage.

"I have a ring on my finger and we had a big party and I wore a big dress but we actually didn't legally get married," she tells Mallie.

"I just felt it would be a little hypocritical with all the campaigning that I do.

"I felt it would be an opportunity to continue to raise the platform. Northern Ireland is a very small country and there is not a lot of people in the media that are willing to talk about things."

Bronagh remains hopeful that there will be same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland but believes Westminster rather than Stormont may need to legislate for it.

"If Northern Ireland wants to be treated the same as the rest of the UK, then we have to treat their citizens the same.

"If these things, abortion and equal marriage, are available in the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland should have those as well. So that we can celebrate this country for all the wonderful things that it has and not focus on a small, small pocket of people's dinosaur views. There is a majority for it, nearly 80%, People want it, they want the change.

"We just need to get someone, maybe Westminster, to legislate."

Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with Bronagh Waugh is on UTV on Tuesday at 10.40pm

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