School Daze: Interior designer Anne Tuohy - ‘I was a little nerd’

School Daze: Interior designer Anne Tuohy - ‘I was a little nerd’

I grew up in Carrick, which is a tiny village below the cliffs of Slieve League in Donegal.

It was your typical village childhood, where everybody knew everybody, and our house was literally two minutes from my primary school.

We came home for lunch every day, and lunch in those days was dinner — with dessert!

I was a little nerd at school, I loved it. I loved English in particular, though I was good at Irish too — it was an Irish-speaking school and I grew up speaking it.

I had a desire to write and a love of English that I didn’t really embrace until a couple of years ago.

I was a voracious reader throughout school — I was a ten books a week girl. I used to love Enid Blyton and I read all of the Malory Towers and St Clare’s books.

All I wanted to do was go to boarding school — it seemed so glamorous and exciting to me.

In order to pursue my dream, in sixth class I did scholarship exams for a Convent of Mercy boarding school in Ballyshannon in Donegal, and I got it!

When I moved there, I felt very awkward. I was 12 and very tall for my age, and I felt extremely uncomfortable and as though I was bigger than everyone else.

I had also started to wear glasses, which I absolutely hated, so that all added to what was a difficult first year for me.

After that, I settled in and I adored every second of my time there. There were certain teachers that really believed in me and gave me a major foundation in terms of confidence.

My English teachers tended to like me because it was one of my strengths and I was probably the only one back then who got an A in Leaving Cert English, when you didn’t really get As.

I loved writing essays and fiction and short stories, I could have written all day long.

I had a Latin teacher called Joe McGlone who had a major impact on me.

I was a very shy teenager, particularly in those early years. He saw something in me and he was putting together a debating team.

There were four of us — I was the youngest — and he tutored us and nurtured us.

We used to go up to the lab and practice our debates. I remember feeling as though I was a different person, so confident, so capable!

I get emotional when I think of what Joe did for us; he was an exceptional teacher and gave us a grounding that stood to us in our adult lives.

My circle of friends was relatively small, we had a core group who stuck together through the entirety of school.

I lost contact with everybody that I was in school with, but thanks to social media, somehow we have found each other and are getting up to speed on what has happened in our lives since we last met.

After school I went on to do nursing. I remember talking to my mother as I was coming up to Leaving Certificate and saying ‘I want to be a journalist’.

She said, ‘you can’t — journalists are people who smoke and hang around in dark alleys, so you can’t.’

So I stumbled into nursing and I loved it.

After my children were born, we bought a wreck of a house, and ended up completely remodelling it, and my new career was born.

I think that my work today is inspired by my creative side. As a mother, I have had the chance to observe how our school system affects children in different ways.


I have three boys who have gone through the Leaving Cert now, and they are all very different men.

I hate the Leaving Cert, I hate the pressure it brings, I hate the 600 points nonsense.

I think that the pressure is too much, the whole concept is to turn them into robots — as long as they can remember and regurgitate, they’ll get those points and then they will start to drown when they get to college and they don’t know how to self-learn.

The Anne of 18 years old would not believe how my life has worked out.

She would not have dreamed to dream the opportunities that I have had, and I feel extremely lucky.

I believe that if you can do what you love, then you are on the right path.

At the end of the day, a great schooling experience doesn’t come from the amount of points you earn in your final year, it’s made up of life changing experiences and hopefully, guidance from teachers who believe in you.

Interior designer and winner of RTÉ’s Showhouse Anne Tuohy is the owner of roomjunkie.com, an interior design company which specialises in new builds and renovations.

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