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Maj-ic moments 'I knew I was going to marry Daniel even though we'd only met each other twice,' says Majella O'Donnell

Majella tells how her children and grandchildren have transformed Daniel’s life

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Singer Daniel O'Donnell and his wife Majella  will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year

Singer Daniel O'Donnell and his wife Majella will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year

Singer Daniel O'Donnell and his wife Majella will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year

THEY are now one of the most famous couples in Ireland thanks to their own award-winning TV series, but Daniel and Majella, who will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year, had a rocky start together.

When they first met, Majella was a mother of two young children and was divorced from her first husband. After initiating the romance, Daniel then briefly stepped back from the relationship because of Majella’s personal circumstances.

However, love won out in the end. Today, in an exclusive interview, Majella tells how her children and grandchildren have transformed Daniel’s life.

“I can remember when we met, Daniel initially had a problem with the fact that I had been married and had children. It was complicated. But now, looking back, he says that the children turned out to be the blessing.

“Now he has a ready-made family that love the bones of him, so he has it all and he appreciates it. He’s so caring, he’s so kind with my kids and they are very close to him. It’s lovely, I’m blessed and we feel like a really tight-knit family.

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The loving couple share a kiss on their wedding day

The loving couple share a kiss on their wedding day

The loving couple share a kiss on their wedding day

“The grandkids, Olivia and Archie, they’re like his children. To him, he now has children without all the responsibilities. And he loves them. Daniel was involved with the grandchildren from day one. If we were minding them as babies, it was Daniel who would get up in the middle of the night.

“I need my sleep badly. Because of mental health reasons, I need a lot of sleep, so I’m not good at being disturbed four and five times a night. Daniel would get up, no bother, make the bottle and change the nappy. He just loves those children to bits. Every single day he calls them on Skype and they just love him to bits as well. It’s magical, it really is.”

Majella was aware of Daniel’s success when they met in September 1999 at her parents’ bar in Tenerife. But, as she wasn’t a country music fan at the time, she had no idea just how popular he was at the time.

“After Mum and Dad moved to Tenerife they told me that they’d met Daniel through other Irish people,” Majella remembers. “He had started coming down to their bar. I thought that was really nice of him, knowing that he was fairly well-known, that he would take the time out to go down and see Mum and Dad.

“That was how I was aware of him more than anything. I met him once there when I was still married. I thought he was very nice. And that was it then until I met him the second time in September, 1999.

“There was a physical attraction, of course, but because I was divorced I never thought in a million years that he would have any significant interest in me at all. When he did show a bit of interest I thought, ‘Wow, this is fabulous.’ That first week when I met him in Tenerife, he made the move and kissed me.

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Majella had no idea just how popular Daniel was when the pair met

Majella had no idea just how popular Daniel was when the pair met

Majella had no idea just how popular Daniel was when the pair met

“I was living in Tenerife at the time and when he went back home he wrote and we called each other fairly regularly and by the time I met him again in December I knew I was going to marry him, even though it was only the second time I met him.

“The first time I went to see him in concert was that December in 1999 in London. I was gobsmacked by the reaction of the crowd, and how mad about him they were. I think I spent half my time looking around at people’s faces.

“He was an excellent entertainer. At the time I didn’t listen to country music at all, so I wasn’t thinking ‘this is fantastic’ in terms of the music. He was brilliant and what he did was brilliant on the entertainment side of it. Then I just started to really get into the music. I just hadn’t been exposed to it before that.

“I did love the Irish ballads, though, which were part of the show. Or when Daniel did rock ’n’ roll, I thought it was brilliant. I thought he was an excellent entertainer, no doubt about that. He was very professional.”

However, their relationship cooled for a short time after Daniel got cold feet about entering the lives of a mother and her two children. The couple remained friends and continued to meet up in Tenerife. Then, in April 2001, Daniel told Majella that he was deeply in love with her. And so began their journey together in life.

“I don’t know why we hit it off, because we are both complete opposites,” Majella says today. “I mean, really, you’re talking about chalk and cheese. But he seems to push the right buttons in me and vice versa. If I’m arguing with Daniel, he will defuse it – whereas with my ex-husband, the row would escalate. Daniel will make me laugh and I found it very easy to be with him.

“Daniel always said to me, ‘I like my own company.’ At the beginning, when we were going out, he said to me, ‘I don’t know if I can be with somebody all the time, I do like to be on my own.’ And, you see, I was exactly the same.

“I had been on my own for about five years and I enjoyed my own company. I suppose it was the same fear for me going back into being with somebody all the time. But, for me, I had been in that situation before, whereas Daniel had never lived with a partner. So he didn’t know whether he would be able to stick it or not.

“For Daniel, it was also having to include somebody in a life that was already so busy career-wise. I think it’s the fact that I was older – I was 40 when we married – that I didn’t need the attention from him. I was happy when he was going off on tour. I wasn’t sitting at home whingeing that it wasn’t fair and I was on my own for seven weeks, or whatever.”

Majella says she never interfered in Daniel’s career and gave him the freedom to pursue his dreams on that front. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer in July 2013, she insisted that he continue on touring.

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Daniel and Majella on holidays in Sydney, Australia

Daniel and Majella on holidays in Sydney, Australia

Daniel and Majella on holidays in Sydney, Australia

“Daniel was prepared to take a break, but I said no,” Majella recalls. “All he would have been doing was sitting there looking at me. I had my mother with me, so she could help with anything I needed. For Daniel to come off the road would have been pointless, and I think he would have felt even more helpless sitting there looking at me going through it.

“No matter how many people you have around you, it’s a journey you have to go through on your own. I don’t want to be mollycoddled. I don’t want to be fussed over. That works with Daniel as it allows him to concentrate on his own life and his own career, which he had for 20 years before I came along.

“He still says it to me now. He says, ‘You’re the only person I could ever envisage living with and spending my life with all the time, because we get on so well. I never get bored with you.’ And I don’t get bored with Daniel either. We’re still independent of each other, but very supportive of each other as well, which is a very healthy thing.

“With Daniel I’m very confident that he loves me and I love him and that we’re solid.”

The couple wed in November 2002, and Majella would go on to find herself rubbing shoulders with Daniel’s famous friends, including the late Cilla Black and Cliff Richard. She took it all in her stride.

“I was never in awe of famous people,” Majella explains. “As a teenager, I never had a poster of any celebrity or idol on my bedroom wall. The first time I met Cliff, he was just a person to me. Of course I felt honoured, but I never felt flustered. I never felt, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Look who’s in my house!’

“The first time I went out to Barbados to Cliff, I was on my own as Daniel couldn’t go due to his work. Daniel said, ‘Sure why don’t you go out yourself?’

“I remember being on the plane and coming in to land in Barbados and thinking, “Jesus, Majella Roche from Thurles in Co. Tipperary, what are you doing sitting on a plane on your own going to stay with Cliff Richard?’

“But I had worked in the hotel business in a five-star, so I was used to dealing with corporate clients and celebrities as well. I didn’t feel out of my depth. I felt I could relate to them and talk to them, maybe more than Daniel could at the time. Daniel is quite reserved, really. And probably my confidence helped him to be more outgoing as well.

"Before he met me he would get invites and not take them up, but having somebody by his side was different. I think that’s what relationships are all about. You have something to offer and the other person has something to offer.”

As a celebrity couple, Daniel and Majella would go on to win the hearts of the Irish nation through their reality TV show, Daniel & Majella’s B&B Road Trip.

“I thought we would be good on television,” Majella says. “I knew that people thought that Daniel was very shy and a bit staid. All they ever saw was Daniel being interviewed and he can be very cautious and reserved.

“So, unless people were going to his concerts, they never saw the side of him that I was seeing – the fun side, the humour, the silliness and the craic. And I thought if people saw this they’d see a completely different side to Daniel, and it would be good.

“And that’s exactly what’s happened, although a hell of a lot more than what I expected. He was received so well, from children to older people. And it was just us being the way that we are, bouncing off each other.

“Now, of course, not everybody is going to like you. That’s just the way the world is. I say at talks that I do that you might be the most beautiful, ripest, prettiest, juiciest peach in the whole world … and there’s still going to be people that don’t like peaches.

“Some people think I’m great craic and great fun, and other people don’t. That’s fine by me because I can only be me. I can’t be anybody else and I don’t want to be anybody else.

“At the end of the day, the most important person who accepts me as I am is Daniel. Once he’s happy with me nobody else matters. And Daniel also knows that I’ve got his back and that I will always be there for him.”

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