In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
grew up on a farm in east Galway. She was a radiographer working in Beaumont Private Clinic before joining Elan Pharmaceuticals, where she was global director of marketing. She is now a business coach in her husband, Paul Fagan’s company, ActionCoach. They live in Howth with their two children
‘THERE WAS AN instant bond when we met in the 1980s: we were both in our first jobs, in the Bank of Ireland on Baggot Street. I’d grown up on a farm, in Clontuskert, in east Galway. Catherine had just finished her degree in UCD – she’d started at 16.
“We moved into a flat together for about a year, and it was always fun. Then I went back to college to study radiography. We shared a flat again after I qualified, then we both bought houses. I was 22. I lived in Stillorgan, Catherine lived in Clonskeagh, and we’d meet in the middle to walk in Deerpark, Mount Merrion.
“We’d walk and talk, discuss things very openly. You’d always be assured of honest feedback and support from Catherine, whether it was about relationships, career . . . and later, children and business. We were both very driven to build a business. We both had very supportive parents, a very solid foundation.
“We bonded over everything from holidays to nights out, and later, to meeting up with our children and husbands. Our families are close.
“I clearly remember on one of those walks Catherine telling me she had a dream of converting a building in the yard of Ballyknocken into a cookery school. I said, ‘I know you can do it, of course you can, go for it.’ She would do that for me, but would be very solid in terms of saying have you thought of this, this and this . . . ?
“After qualifying as a radiographer, I worked in Beaumont Private Clinic, then went back to college to study marketing and joined Elan. I left there with the aim of having children and to work with my husband, Paul, building up ActionCoach, his business-coaching franchise in Ireland. We teach business owners, especially small and medium enterprises, how to increase their sales and profits and run their businesses better. It’s a franchise that operates in 39 countries.
“Both our mums died when they were young. I think when you’ve a great mother, who’s very encouraging, as we both did, it gives you a great start in life. My mother worked full-time in the home, but she wanted us to do whatever we wanted. She would say, ‘Go for it’ – she gave us a great sense of ‘yes I can’.
“Catherine and I see each other a lot, and then it can be just phone calls for a while – but we pick up the phone and the connection’s always there. We never drifted apart, even when I was travelling for Elan.
“I’ve a great group of long-standing friends but Catherine is number one. We have a really solid friendship, and we always have fun. I’m immensely proud of the success of her cookery books and TV shows. The night of her first show, Catherine came to my house: I cooked and we watched it together.
“I’m not surprised: I always believed she could do it.”