First Encounters: Colm O’Regan and Daniel Carey
Colm O’Regan is a stand-up comedian, writer and broadcaster from Dripsey, Co Cork and author of the bestselling books of ‘Irish Mammies’, ‘Isn’t it Well for Ye’ and ‘That’s More of It Now’. He is a regular contributor to the ‘Irish Examiner’, RTÉ Radio 1 and BBC World Service. He lives in Dublin with his wife, Marie
If you ask Daniel the first thing I said to him, he’ll probably tell you that I said, “If you tear my jumper, my mother will kill you.” I have no recollection of this, which is strange as we only know each other a year or so. Joking. We have known each other about 31 years out of our 35, having met at Dripsey national school. Junior infants was a troubling time, sandwiches thrown in toilet bowls (me), children getting sick in the class (Daniel), being put facing the wall for talking (me). Another small boy crying after he was accused of looking up a girl’s skirt (neither of us), jigsaw pieces stored in tobacco pouches (our first teacher’s husband smoked Drum tobacco).
Any friendship forged in those circumstances was bound to last. We had rows. For reasons best known to ourselves; one involved Daniel shouting repeatedly at me “comment tu t’appelle” and me chanting “canary droppings” (his surname is Carey so you can see what I did there). Our first creative collaboration was a play for the local talent show. We got through the first round but fell out over the rewrite for the final. He said it wasn’t funny.
We started secondary school together and being both from the country in a city school full of “feens” meant we were even closer friends for three years. We had a sort of double act on the school bus – intent on impressing the girls with more success for Daniel than for me. Then Daniel left to go to another school but we stayed close.
I went to college while he went to Dublin to work. It often feels like he grew up faster and further than I did. While I was worrying about “the Laplace transform question” , he was doing real-life stuff like holding down a job and learning his trade as a businessman.
In the past couple of decades we’ve met periodically, starting up again where we left off. His drive and confidence inspire me. Nothing is handed to him. He worked for it all himself. He set up a newspaper – an actual print one – in the middle of the worst recession since the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and it’s still going.
He gave me “a shtart” in writing newspaper columns. I think we both look forward to a time of maybe working together on something creatively, as he’s a talented musician and could write if he had the time.
Our conversations might be all high-falutin’ but either could throw in a reference to an obscure event from March 1992 and the other would know exactly what it was about. You can’t bate longevity when it comes to friendship.
Daniel Carey is the owner and managing director of the ‘Cork News’ newspaper. Originally from Dripsey, Co Cork, he has worked in advertising and management in newspapers over a 16-year career. He lives in Kinsale with his wife, Maxine, and their two boys, Bobby (5) and Elliot (1)
“Stop pulling my jumper or my mother will kill you.” These were Colm O’Regan’s first words to me. I felt entitled to pull his jumper when we first met in national school as my mother had knitted it for him at his mother’s request. I’m glad I did stop though; because what followed was one of the most important friendships I’ll know.
Colm always had the ability to attract an audience. Impressively, at four years old, he could spell the word “electricity” and I can still see him, sixth class pupils gathered around in the schoolyard, asking him to do it again while he revelled in the attention.
We rowed over nothing, but we were fierce allies, facing the world together. He was on my side and I on his. I comforted him on the school bus when one of his father’s bullocks fell off a cliff on their farm and died, and helped him to eat the resulting beef sandwiches for weeks after.
We had fun as kids. We laughed a lot. He’ll never forgive me for saying the play we wrote together wasn’t funny.
Colm was the only kid in the tough, all-boys secondary school not to have a nickname. Just like the jumper-pulling, he had set the ground rules on which any relationship would be based. He had insisted on his being addressed by his proper Christian name. He was fearless.
I think I can tell him anything. He has seen me at my best and my worst and treated me with patience, respect and understanding.
I’m so glad he followed his heart and pursued comedy and writing. It seemed brave to leave his very well-paid and secure career as an IT manager but, for my friend Colm, success is simply choosing the direction in which to run and success follows. He inspires me. Something tells me he and I will work together on something creatively in the future. He reminds me of that side of me.
Colm makes time for the people in his life and is a great listener. We can pick up where we left off but I could do more to make time for him and I regret the times I haven’t.
Sometimes I’ve put work ahead of things and hoped I hadn’t lost him along the way. He made time for me when my father died of motor neurone disease last year. He had the perfect excuse not to, having gigged all weekend at Cat Laughs, an important event for any professional comedian, and I wouldn’t have held it against him. He drove miles to Cork, exhausted. I was in pain, my heart breaking. Someone pulled at my jumper and said “Colm’s here”.
It meant everything.
Colm O’Regan plays at Ballymaloe’s Grain Store on Mother’s Day, March 30th, ballymaloe.ie