Noel Storey, 57: ‘I smoked a lot of hash, so my adolescence was quite hazy’

Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Photograph: Aidan Crawley


Noel Storey lives in Dublin

I was born in Carnew, Co Wicklow, and we moved to Artane when I was five. My parents only went to primary school, so education wouldn’t have been a big thing in the family. I left school at 15, after the Inter Cert.

I got a job as a messenger boy in an advertising agency, for £3,500 a year. Once I had enough for guitar lessons, train fare and beer, I was happy. I smoked a lot of hash as a young fellow, and I experimented with various other substances, so my adolescence was quite hazy. I wanted to be in a band. I loved music, listening to avant-garde English and American bands. I still love music; at one time I had a vinyl collection of 2,000 records.

I went to become a trainee sound engineer. This career had never dawned on me, even though I loved music. It was a fantastic four-year apprenticeship; practical work experience. I think it was a big mistake of the school system to get rid of the tech schools, because people have to go through a narrow door of academia of third-level education to get jobs. Not everyone is academic.

Once the four-year apprenticeship was over I was made the senior engineer at the studio there. We were involved in the launch of RTÉ’s 2FM, which was a big deal at the time.

The year I was 23 was probably the worst year of my life. My father died of kidney failure aged 46. He had been having an affair before he got sick, so things weren’t great with my mother, but she stuck with him. I never really said goodbye to him properly. There was a lot of growing up to be done, very, very quickly. It was a turning point.

That same year I got married in March and had a baby in July. I was 23; my wife was 21. The night before our wedding my grandmother was knocked down coming home from Mass, and she died a couple of days after. I was very close to her.

My son was born in July, and it was like a switch that went off: I suddenly got this father stuff.

]]] Our marriage lasted four years, and then we had an amicable separation. We were very young when we got married. I’m quite philosophical in my approach to life. You don’t go into a marriage thinking, I have to have an exit plan. I wanted to give the marriage a go even though the odds were stacked against us.

She went to live in England and brought our son with her. He’d come to me for Christmas, Easter and summer. There were lots of tears all through those years, between me and my son, the minute we hit the airport. That didn’t get any easier for years and years, until he got to about 16, when we had toughened up a bit and got used to it.

I met Mary, my second wife, in 1985. We got married in Mauritius in 1991, just the two of us. I had an English divorce, because my first wife was living in England, and an Irish separation. We have three sons.

When divorce became legal in Ireland my solicitor said I should divorce my first wife under Irish law, so I did. It was done by letter. After that my solicitor suggested Mary and I marry again under Irish law, even though we were already married.

My four sons are more grown up than me at their ages. I think they are physically in better shape, more alert and more intelligent. What I want for them is good health: I saw my father die at 46.

I set up my own recording-studio business in 1995. Until 2008 business was on an upwards curve, and then, in 2008, it fell off the cliff. I had a second studio, and I’ve since closed that.

]]] About six or seven years ago I formally defected from the Catholic Church, through the Count Me Out organisation. When I was a child I prayed on my knees at bedtime. There was no meat on Friday and all that. I wanted to be an altar boy. I liked the performance element to it; it was like being on a stage with everyone looking at you. I never was an altar boy. My parents couldn’t afford the clothes I needed.

When I got to about 12 I started questioning this whole religion thing. I hung round with like-minded boys. We went off to play football on Sunday mornings instead of going to Mass. Catholicism all stopped for me then, when I was that age.

There are big differences between the life I live and the life my parents lived. They never owned a house, like I do, so they never had that security. I got to travel, but my father was never in a plane in his life. My parents were both pioneers, and I am very into wine. You can buy a watch for €5 now, but back in the 50s and 60s a watch cost a week’s wages.

At 57 I’m very comfortable in my skin. I don’t really care what people think or say about me. I think that feeling kicked in in my 40s and has increased even more as time goes on.

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