First encounters: Sandy Kelly and Edward Hayden

Fri, Oct 25, 2013, 13:41

Sandy Kelly is a singer who has been on stage since the age of three in with her family. She worked with showbands, represented Ireland in the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest, and had a hit with a Patsy Cline song in 1989. She has recorded with Johnny Cash and still tours in Ireland and England. Raised in Ballintogher, Co Sligo, she lives in Strandhill

It was the 1990s. I was doing my TV shows, when this gorgeous little fella and his mum started turning up at all my concerts. They must have been the first to book tickets because they were always at the front. After the show I would go down and speak with them; get pictures.

Edward was the fan, not his mum. I would spend more and more time with them after the show as I got to know them; might even sit and have coffee. That’s how we built up the friendship.

Edward never got over his Sandy Kelly phase and he came to see me right through his teenage years. I didn’t know about his cooking until one night in the Helix: I was on stage and just saw him in the third row centre, waving a book – it was his first – at me. That’s the first time I realised he was a serious chef.

Then he asked me to launch his next cookbook in Kilkenny. I remember saying, at it, that I’d been seeing Edward from a child, standing in a queue for a lengthy period of time just to talk to me and get my signature.

I have a funny feeling that, now, I’ll be the one standing in a queue to see him. I’m incredibly proud of him. Now when he achieves something, I get some of his sunshine.

He still comes to my shows: by now Edward knows the songs better than I do. I look down and he’s like a mother at the Feis, mouthing all the words. I say, are you not sick of listening to me singing the same thing? ‘No,’ he says, ‘you’re the best.’ When I’m in Kilkenny, Edward doesn’t just turn up, he brings an entourage.

If I was kind to him at times, he’s now returning that kindness in large quantities.

Edward’s wonderful, a lovely guy. He’s very bubbly, very happy. He goes at 100 miles an hour: so excited, so positive. I would class Edward as one of my dearest friends, although we live miles apart. I would pick up the phone to call him in a heartbeat if I needed to talk about something. He’s on my team.


Sandy Kelly will appear in Ireland’s Showbands: Do You Come Here Often in the Helix, DCU, from January 3rd-5th.

Edward Hayden is a chef and food writer/blogger who worked at Dunbrody House. He lectures in Waterford Institute of Technology and the ICA An Grianán centre. His third cook book, ‘Food for Friends’ was published this year. He is from Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny


Sandy did a show on Sunday nights on RTÉ1. I’d go to bed when I heard the credits rolling. She was coming to Kilkenny one time to do a concert when I was about nine or 10. My sister Patricia was just after getting a car and brought me. I still have a picture taken with Sandy after that show.

I’m the youngest of five children but I was the real fan: I’d drag my mother Sally or one of my brothers or sisters along; they had to mind me.

Mam always appreciated how Sandy was very kind to me. I think I was always the youngest member of the audience. I was still a fan when I started secondary school. I was probably very uncool.

Sandy’s the same offstage as she is on; she’s a very warm, nice, caring person. I suppose the friendship grew very organically; it’s not a problem if we go for two or three months without speaking, we just pick up.

We’re a bit like ships in the night and geographically we’re a distance apart, but when we do meet, it’s lovely to have a chat and a catch-up. I will make the cake for her 60th birthday next year.

It’s true that being a TV chef and author is a competitive world; my friend Margaret, who’s my number-one critic, says people buy the brand – people say I’m the Daniel O’Donnell of cookery.

I do a lot of work with the Irish Countrywomen’s Association. I’m just myself whatever I’m doing and, up to now, it’s been very successful. I’ve been involved with the Kilkenny food festival for a number of years and I’ll be
doing demonstrations during
it. I plan to open a
cookery school at my family home in spring 2014.

Hopefully it will bring some ancillary business to Graiguenamanagh. Sandy will be down for for the first class.

I’m 30 this year and for over 20 years I’ve been a fan of Sandy’s. I like to think I’ve stayed loyal.


Edward Hayden will be giving demonstrations at the Savour
Kilkenny Food Festival on the bank holiday weekend, October 25th-29th.

In conversation with Frances O’Rourke

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