We Were There When… Eddy told us why he set up Cathy O’Shaughnessy Creches in his late wife’s name… on The Coffee at Eleven Show

Cathy died.

Eddy didn’t know what to do.

They’d been together since she was 20, he 21. All of a sudden he was alone, except for his adult children.

What happened next was truly amazing.

Emotion and inspiration flowed in equal measure.

Cathy O’Shaugnessy lives on.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to stick on the kettle, grab a coffee, grant yourself a few minutes of L’Oreal’ time (you’re worth it) and allow us to present you a very special “We Were There When…” moment.

Keep the tissues handy. (and maybe your wallet)

We Were There When… Eddy told us why he set up Cathy O’Shaughnessy Creches in his late wife’s name… on The Coffee at Eleven Show 

Yours Truly: Ladies and gentlemen, a very good morning and welcome to this 64th episode of the Coffee at Eleven show. I’m delighted that you’ve chosen to join us and thank you for being here. In particular, I want to welcome my special guest, Mr. Eddy O’Shaughnessy. Eddy, can you say, “Hi,” and show us have you got a coffee mug there with you please?

Eddy O’Shaughnessy: Yeah. Good morning. Lovely to be on. Thanks for having me, Colm. So I’d always been dabbling and looking at business ideas and I’d looking at import/export and I’d looking at loads of things. People knew, I suppose, that I was open to looking at stuff. So, very much by chance, the business that I’m in now just came across my lap. It was just one of those things really. Actually, I’ll just tell the story of how it did happen? I haven’t told the story for years.

But it was a Saturday and it was raining in Charleville, as it does a lot of the time. But Cathy was downtown doing shopping and she was walking down the street and her first cousin was driving in the opposite direction and he rolled down to window. At the time, we’d the shop open, this guy had a band along with a few of his friends. At the same time, U2 had just started and there were very, very beginning to get successful. But I have a guy, their manager, whose name escapes me now at the moment, but he was kind of seen as being the key figure in the success of the band. He just basically pulled all the strings and got them going. McGuinness. Yeah, wasn’t it? Yeah, that was his name.

So Jamesy rolled down when then he was shouting out in the rain, in the traffic, to Cathy. He wanted to meet me. He had a business idea. She came home and said, “Jamesy wants to call up to see you. He has this business idea.” Through all of that, I interpreted that as being he wanted me to become the manager of the band. That was my interpretation of what he had said, even though it turned out that it wasn’t what he had said. But when he came, I just assumed I was going to be the next band manager. I was going to take the boys on tour and it was going to be brilliant, because I didn’t play or I didn’t sing, but I could do that bit and the boys could do their bit. But that turned out to be the business that I have ever since, which is a long way from U2 and a long way from music and bands. But that’s how I kind of started, so very much by accident.

Yours Truly: I love it. Bualadh bos, bualadh bos. Am I right in saying the McGuinness fellow you’re talking about is the manager of U2.

Eddy O’Shaughnessy: Correct, yeah, yeah. That’s who I saw myself, I saw myself as being him with the lads. They were doing the music, I was doing the business end of it. That was my plan.

Yours Truly: And U2 never bought into that? That’s a shame. My goodness. And do you know what? If they had, they could have been big. They could have been big.

Eddy O’Shaughnessy: They could have made it, who knows?

Yours Truly: Eddy, that’s a great story. That’s a great story. Eddy, Eddy, my friend, you mentioned Cathy, you mentioned Cathy. When did you meet? How did you meet?

Actually, we were working in the same job, so that’s how we met. The first time we met, in fact, we used to have socials in those days, all the factories, all the business, the bigger businesses. We used to have an annual Christmas social, and that’s where we met. It was one of those things that it was destined to happen. So, we were together for about 40 years. We started as Cathy was 20, I was 21. We kind of grew up together and we were getting old together, I suppose, a bit, yeah.

Yours Truly: Yeah. Sorry to bring you here, but it’s a significant part of the story. And Gemma, you’re very welcome, Gemma’s Eddy and Cathy’s daughter, here in the cafe. You’re very welcome. Thank you for being here.

Eddy O’Shaughnessy: But anyway, so I was on LinkedIn and I was scrolling and I was just killing time really. I was just doodling. But I realized that I needed to get out of the house. And I didn’t want to get out locally, I didn’t want to go anywhere where I’d be known, where start to avoid conversation and everything.

So, I saw this flyer advertising a talk in Cork, in Fota Island resort, a hotel. It was a guy who was like an adventurer, he was going to tell you stories. It sounds interesting now. It sounded like a guy who had a story to tell. I just said I’d go because it was over an hour away. So at least if I only went, drove down and back, it would be two hours out of the house. I said, “Look, nobody knows me. I’ll go in the door, I’ll sit somewhere near the door so that if I need to get out, I can just get out without making a big fuss.” I went to it and it turned out to be fundraiser for an organization called The Hope Foundation. So, it was €20 in the door in the ticket and seemed to me like, “Yeah, that’ll be a night out. Get out of the house.” That was the plan.

So, what I saw then, I suppose, really, so when this guy tells his story, and it was interesting now, but when he finished, this lady was introduced by the host and it turned out to be a lady called Maureen Forrest who’s the founder of The Hope Foundation. So Maureen went up and she thanked the speaker. It was a freebie from him, because he did a lot of work for The Hope Foundation. He flew over from England to do the talk. She thanked everyone for coming, and she said, “Look, you’ve all paid €20 in the door, I just want to show you for the next couple of minutes where the money actually goes.” And she put out a video for a couple of minutes.

So, what I saw really changed everything and changed my way of thinking, which a was good thing. And it just shook me up, just changed my life really. So what she showed was there was this kind of like a mountain, and you could see these little black dots on the mountain. And then it focuses out, it zooms in a bit, and you could see the dots taking shape and they were crouched over. They went in further again then, you could see that there was two different things happening, there was pigs, these really big black pigs. I was going to say I met him after, but I didn’t actually meet him, I saw him afterwards. And the other thing was children. So there was these four or five-year-old children who are bent over, so that the pig and the child had the same shape because they were both bent over, obviously. The pigs were looking for food and the children were picking plastic. So, they were picking plastic and were putting it into these massive, big sacks and bringing them back down again.

So, she went on to explain that it’s Bhagar dump, which is the biggest dump outside Calcutta, which subsequently Gemma and myself actually went there subsequently. But every morning, something like 19 trucks land into Bhagar dump and tip. And as soon as the trucks come, all the children would arrive. The parents would send them up on the dump, and themselves and the pigs would be on the dump all day, they’d be picking the plastic. They’d come down and they’d sell that then for a couple of pence, which was going to feed them for today. They were sleeping on the street. So, they’d go back down when they were finished and sleep on the street to be able to get up in the morning and do the whole thing all over again.

She explained that when she had seen this herself, that she didn’t think that was anywhere for a child to live. She really explained and showed me, in particular, what was going on in that part of the world. It was just from watching that that when I went in the door feeling really sorry for myself and really down and really like, “Oh, what’s it all about? And where’s my life after disappearing to all of a sudden?” And I left the room thinking, “There’s people actually out there worse than I am. These kids haven’t a hope.” And I said, “It’s about time I stopped feeling sorry for myself. And maybe we should do something.”

So, on the way back, I phoned one of the lads, my family, on the way back. And I said, “Look, looking at this thing, maybe we should do something in your mother’s name. Maybe we should do something. Maybe we could make a difference to these children because nobody deserves to live like the way they live.” So, we started off with a place called Nabo Asha, a children’s home there. I put some money in and the company I work with, the Juice Plus+ company, they match-funded me, and we got 14 grand put together. We went over then to see Nabo Asha and that’s where we put the original. There’s 52 children in there. But from there then, that was only a one-off kind of a thing. They were short money for that project. We had the money, so we put it in.

But then we got into a place called Panchanantala. Yeah, that photograph actually is in Bhagar, the Bhagar creche, which is… Those lads, those two guys there, would have been on the dump. They would have been some of the many, many, many children picking the plastic. So we got involved with Panchanantala creche, which has 48 children. But then what we really wanted happened the following year, and I visited a place called Chitpur. Now, Chitpur, that’s Chitpur, and those children are amazing. All the people that we met, just to explain, there’s something like 3000 slums in Calcutta.

Now, one of the many things I’ve learned out of this, there’s two types of slums: there’s official slums and there’s unofficial slums. Now, if you live in an official slum, for every 25 families, there’s one tap, one toilet and one power plug point for every 25 families. That’s the official slum. If you live in unofficial slum, there’s zero. Nothing. Nada. Nothing.

Where these guys live, there’s a river beside it and it’s black. I mean, it’s stinks. The temperatures now are always going to be 30-plus, it’s very warm. And the stink off of that river, and the flies and the filth. Just beside the river then, they took us into this… it was like this alleyway, you’re going into all these little runs, all these little alleys. Just about maybe two people could pass, maybe, just about. They’re that narrow. But these guys then would live in little… so, there’s canvas and a bit of a tin and plastic structures that all of these lads would live in. As it turns out, there’s 120 families in that community in this place called Chitpur.

Yours Truly: It’s being done in Cathy’s memory. You guys, as you said, you grew up together. 41 years together and then your life changed. Ironically, hundreds of lives will change as a result. Many people are blessed because of what happened, because of what you decided to do rather than getting bitter and hold it all to yourself, “Woe is me.” You’ve stepped down and it’s become bigger and richer as a result. Cathy O’Shaughnessy will save hundreds, thousands of lives over time. Sp bualad bos, bualadh bos.

Watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/y7CE32v9fao

Connect with Eddy here: https://www.facebook.com/eddy.oshaughnessy

Support The Cathy O’Shaughnessy Hope Fund here: https://www.facebook.com/cathyshopefund

The magic (and the hope) of live entertainment happens when all involved walk away shaking their heads in disbelief, dying to tell someone, “We were there when…” This cannot happen every time, even if the same people utter the same words time after time, as in a stage play that runs night after night, but it happens when a sprinkling of magic touches performers, crew and audience alike. And it happened several times on The Coffee at Eleven Show.

As we break for the summer, we thought we’d go back to the recordings and pull out a few of those moments where we can honestly and proudly say, “We were there when…”.

The plan is to share one “We were there when…”moment with you each week between now and September.

Come back next week for another installment of “We were there when…” from a guest who had Coffee with Colm on The Coffee at Eleven Show, brought to you by WIG-WAM – SME Peer Support


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