From the milking parlour to the beauty parlour may seem a bit of a stretch for most people, but not farmer Maurice Walsh.
He has been switching from herding cattle in Mitchelstown, Co Cork to shepherding a struggling hairdressing salon in Tallaght, Co Dublin, as he fronts a TV programme for RTÉ entitled Farmer In Charge.
The show is set to replace At Your Service, which the Brennan brothers from Kenmare, Co Kerry, have been hosting for the past seven years.
A father of three, Maurice, 45, was asked to audition for the programme when he was approached by RTÉ executives while displaying a milking machine at the ploughing championships last year in Rathiniska. They wanted him to host the pilot programme for the new show, in which a farmer uses the experience of running a homegrown business to help struggling enterprises in Dublin and other urban centres.
“They seemed to think I would fit the bill,” Maurice told the Evening Echo yesterday. “I was so busy I said ‘if you want to talk with me you will have to come down to Cork to the farm and stay alongside me’.”
Maurice, who farms 128 acres with a herd of 100 cattle, was apprehensive at first but decided to give it a go. Although he had no experience of television there is a bit of the showman in him as he is a member of the Palace Players theatre company in Mitchelstown, playing a role in a recent production of Martin McDonagh’s play The Cripple of Inishmaan.
“I didn’t realise what was involved,” he said. “I had no idea I would be running a hair salon in Tallaght.”
In this one-off special, Maurice advises Angel Hair and Beauty owners Nick and Claire Reddin how to turn their salon into a more profitable business .
“What I would say to most business owners is that the main thing is cashflow,” he said. “Keep on top of your accounts and keep your bills paid.”
It took a lot of juggling for Maurice to continue to keep an eye on his own business while helping the Reddins with theirs.
“It was quite hard. All in all, it took about 24 days to do the lot,” he said.
While he was filming in Dublin his wife, Lorraine, an accountant, and his three boys, Aron, 22, Darragh, 18, and Cian, six, remained on the farm. It was a long commute in contrast to the four minutes it takes him to cross the field to milk his cows.
“I was milking cows in the morning, getting out in the overalls and the wellies, and then putting on my shirt and pants and heading to Dublin,” he said. “Then it was back down the road into the wellies again.
“There was one day when one of my cows was lame and I had to lift up her hoof to get out grit and dirt. Two hours later I was in Tallaght putting on shellac nails on a lady.” n Farmer In Charge airs on RTÉ1 on Monday at 6.30pm.
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