Mum’s the word: her advice is good for life

AS SHE watched a TV documentary about the foot-and-mouth epidemic in England, author Valerie Bowe wasn’t surprised by the news that thousands of sheep had to be put down.

But she was taken aback by another, unexpected consequence of the outbreak — flock memory was lost and young lambs kept falling off mountains because there were no older sheep left to guide them.

Humans, too, need guidance from those who have gone before — and, for many of us, it’s the small maternal wisdom that stays with us through our lives.

Bowe discovered this when she invited well-known people to contribute sayings handed down to them “by mothers or fathers, grandparents or guardians”.

The majority of the contributions she received were pieces of advice given to people by their mums.

Like former US president Bill Clinton, who said of his mother: “It was she who taught me to get up every day and keep going;

To look for the best in people, even when they saw the worst in me;

To be grateful for every day and greet it with a smile;

To believe I could do or be anything I put my mind to if I was willing to make the requisite effort;

To believe that, in the end, love and kindness would prevail over cruelty and selfishness.”

Think about it: What advice did your mum give you?

John Murray, Broadcaster

“My Mum, Nancy, always said ‘trust in the Lord and, if it’s the will of God, it’ll happen’.

“I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason, so I take a philosophical view of life.

“Even when you have a setback, you can quickly discover that there was a reason for something not happening, and I think I worry less because of this.

“In a way, it’s like being on a plane — it’s pointless fretting about something you’ve no control over. When it comes to certain things in life, you really have to sit back and let fate take the wheel, because something that seems like a setback can often turn out to be a blessing in disguise.”

John Murray presents The John Murray Show each weekday morning, between 9am and 10am, on RTÉ Radio 1.

Cathy Kelly, Best-selling novelist

“My mother, Gay, has a lovely saying about bringing up children: ‘You give them roots and wings.’

“It means that your children are rooted to you with love and, yet, they can fly away to their own lives when they want to.

“I think it’s the most marvellous piece of advice, because that’s just what you have to do, even though it’s a hard concept to get your head around when you have sons the age of mine: nine and a half.

“At this point, I don’t want to imagine a time when they aren’t rooted to me and yet I know that to take care of them properly, I must let them fly off when they are old enough.

“As they get older, I see and understand how right my mother is. We do our children no favours if we cling to them in the wrong way.

“I hope I have given my sons roots and I will give them their wings, just the way my mother said.”

Cathy Kelly’s latest novel, The Honey Queen, is published by Harper Collins, price: €14.99

Brenda Donohue, radio reporter

“My Mum, Mary, always says ‘it’s nice to be nice’ — and that it doesn’t cost you anything.

She has instilled that in her children.

“It’s a very simple thing, but to carry it through your life requires effort. If you make the effort, it brings a dividend.

“I found it worked for me when I was starting out in the media world, where there’s a lot of cynicism — and where being nice gives you a genuine and fresh appeal. That side of my personality was on air and the public responded to it, and it brought me more and more work.

“Mum’s advice has helped me develop in my career. In a way, it’s been one of the strongest tools I have when I meet and interview people, and it’s something I carry into my reports and broadcasts.

“You’re more confident in yourself. You have a strength which results from the positive feedback you get from people — it has a very deep resonance.”

Brenda Donohue is a reporter for RTÉ Radio 1’s Mooney Show, which broadcasts weekdays at 3pm on RTÉ Radio 1.

Peter Kelly, Weddings by Franc

“My mum, Doreen, gave me one very big piece of advice that I’ve always remembered — treat everyone with respect, no matter what their status in life, their culture or religion.

“As children, we were always encouraged to see the person inside and never to judge a book by the cover.

“This philosophy has served me really well, in both my personal and professional lives — I’ve always treated everyone with respect and, as a result, I’ve always been comfortable with people and never got into the habit of making assumptions about them.

“I always take people as they are — I’ve met billionaires who look as if they’ve fallen on hard times, and I’ve also met people who’d be very ostentatious.”

Peter Kelly is one of Ireland’s leading wedding planners and event designers; visit

Michael Culloty, MABS

“My mother used to say to me ‘take your time making a decision, but go with your gut feeling’.

“I’ve followed this good advice on many occasions in my life.

“The one I remember most was when I accepted a job at a reduced salary, compared to what I had been earning, because I instinctively felt that it was right for me.

“That was 16 years ago and I’m still in the same job”.

Michael Culloty is the national development officer of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service; 01-8129350; MABS National Helpline: 1890 283 438, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

Sean Rocks, broadcaster

“The only piece of advice my mother, Philly, ever gave me was to go back and repeat my Leaving Cert — but I completely ignored it.

“In hindsight, I realise that if I’d listened, I might have got to where I am today a bit quicker — I ended up taking the scenic route into broadcasting, via teaching and acting.

“I think Mum felt another year at school might have broadened my horizons. However, she was never one to give advice; she was the kind of parent who leads by example. She never sat me down and told me to do something, it was more a case of showing, not telling.”

Sean Rocks presents Arena, RTÉ Radio 1’s arts, entertainment and popular culture show, each weeknight between 7pm and 8pm.


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