She’s been one of the best known faces on Irish television for over 40 years, but having left RTE in 2019, Mary Kennedy has entered a new phase of her life.
“I’m at a stage where I want to do some TV work and I want to keep up my writing. But I don’t want to be working fulltime at my age. I don’t want to come to the end of my life and say: ‘Why didn’t I spend more time with my friends and family?’ My two grandchildren are down in Limerick and I like to get down to them regularly too.
“I want a balance and if the pandemic taught us anything it is that life is for living and that balance in my life is very important.”
And as part of that new work/life balance, Mary has decided to sell her home of 20 years at Coolamber Park in Knocklyon, to downsize to a smaller home in the area.
Putting the detached four-bedroom corner house on the market has been a big decision for the presenter. “I love the house and everybody loves it,” she says. “But it’s very big and I no longer need all that space so I’m downsizing.”
Soon after stepping down at RTE, Mary was right back on our screens with a bang. As a contestant on
Dancing With the Stars in 2020, she dazzled with dance partner John Nolan, making it into the last six before being eliminated in a nail-biting dance-off with Grainne Gallanagh.
Next she was straight into her most recent project — a book of reflections with her sister Deirdre Ní Chinnéide, entitled
Journey to the Well, much of which was written at her home in Knocklyon during the Covid 19 lockdown. This was published in November.
The sisters grew up on St Brigid’s Road in Clondalkin, Co Dublin and lived beside a holy well dedicated to St Brigid and as youngsters they would volunteer to take care of it, particularly as the saint’s feast day on February 1 approached.
Pushing open the front door of No111, you enter into a bright hall with black and white tiles. To one side there’s a cosy sitting room with polished wooden floors, a mantle piece with a gas fire, and a big window letting in the light.
This is where Mary watches TV in the evenings, including
Dancing with the Stars, which she says has been a great way for us to emerge from of the pandemic.
“I’m delighted it’s back,” she says. “The standard is unbelievably high this year and I think it’s the uplifting, invigorating and colourful way for us to emerge.”
She’s still friends with former dancing partner John Nolan and often goes walking with him. “We even have a spice bag from time to time,” she laughs.
John is also still teaching her to dance with her partner Tom. “Tom loves to dance,” says Mary. “We really enjoy the classes.”
But she’s often to be found on the other side of the house, in the slightly smaller second sitting room which is carpeted and sports some heavy gold curtains.
There’s an open fire here and a piano. Although she can play it herself, the piano is mostly for when Mary throws a party.
“You sing for your supper when you come this house. Inevitably every get-to-together here ends with a sing-song around the piano,” she says. Of course her nephew singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy joins in. “Yes, he plays the piano here too,” laughs Mary.
A formal dining room, which opens onto a large conservatory to the rear of the house, is also used for entertaining. And this is where Mary does her writing. She’s written six books in total.
“There’s such a lovely view from the dining room,” says Mary. “When I sit at the table I can look out through the conservatory at the garden.”
The rear garden, featuring colourful flower beds, elaborate topiary and hanging baskets, was professionally landscaped, but Mary has looked after it herself over the years to keep it in trim.
“Whoever buys the house can be assured there’s some beautiful plants in the flower beds coming up to surprise them,” she laughs.
The back garden is west facing and gets the sun at a number of different times of. There’s a spot down at the bottom of the garden where the sun hits in the morning. “I love sitting there with a cup of coffee in the summer,” says Mary. “You can hear the birds sing.”
By lunchtime, the sun has reached her kitchen, which has modern units in duck egg blue and terracotta tiles, also at the back of the house.
In the evening, it hits the patio decking, which was a 60th birthday present from her children and has served her brilliantly ever since.
Her two sons and one of their friends installed it themselves. The decking area also benefits from a remote-controlled canopy overhead which rolls out to protect her guests from the elements and prevent a sudden rain shower from interrupting a gathering.
And the house has witnessed many a party over the years. “We’ve had 18th, 21st’ and 30th birthday celebrations, as well as engagement parties here, “ says Mary, adding that two of her children held the second day of their wedding celebrations in the house.
“They were unreal events,” recalls Mary. “One took place in November and it was indoors and you couldn’t move from one side of the kitchen to the other, but it was fab. The other was in August and we were able to use the conservatory and the deck at the back of the house.”
These days, her children are grown-up and the only one to live with her is her youngest, Lucy, who moved back during lockdown.
While Mary didn’t mind the first lockdown, she found the most recent one harder to take.
Although retired from RTE, she is still making TV shows, the latest being a TG4 series called
Moving West which is a six-part documentary about people who moved to rural settings during lockdown.
She’s loathe to call herself busy however. “I no longer wear ‘busy’ as a badge of honour,” she says.
Although originally from Clondalkin, Mary loves Knocklyon and she’s already bought a smaller house in the area. “I have such wonderful neighbours here,” she says.
“Besides my focus is here because my family is here — my brothers, my kids, my friends and partner are all in Dublin,” she says.
She does admit that it will be hard for her to sell the house. “It will be emotional parting with it,” she says. “But sometimes change is good.”
Sherry FitzGerald seeks €850,000.