First encounters: Sandy Kelly and Edward Hayden
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.