I’d love one more hug with dad

Ahead of Father’s Day this Sunday, June 21, CHRIS DUNNE talks to TV presenter Elaine Crowley about her beloved dad, who died of cancer, how her mum is now battling the disease and why the Cork woman will never have ‘notions’
I’d love one more hug with dad
Elaine Crowley. Picture: Evan Doherty Photography

EVEN though Elaine Crowley’s dad, Sean, was her school principal too, she wasn’t always teacher’s pet. But he did have a pet name for his daughter.

“Dad’s pet name for me was Lainey!” says Elaine.

“He never showed me any favouritism in the classroom,” adds Elaine, aged 42.

“I remember once, he caught me cheating on a maths test, passing notes in class,” says Elaine, who hosts the daytime talk show, Elaine, on Virgin Media, and who is from Newtwopothouse.

“Dad reprimanded me when he caught me cheating and I thought, I’m in for it when I go home,” she recalls.

“But that was the end of it. Dad never brought his work home or any school issues home with him.”

Elaine Crowley with mum and dad, sisters Veronica and Maggie.
Elaine Crowley with mum and dad, sisters Veronica and Maggie.

When he brought his daughter home from school, father and daughter cooked dinner together.

“Cooking was something that we both enjoyed doing,” say Elaine.

“We were both real foodies! And we were like two peas in a pod. My mother was a teacher too and I come from a family of 10 children, I am number seven, so there was a lot of cooking to do!”

Elaine remembers her dad as a great storyteller.

“He loved history and he was the local historian, instilling the love of history into his pupils. He appeared on a history documentary on RTÉ television. He was a great story-teller.”

With Father’s Day looming this weekend, Elaine is reminded of how much she still misses her dad, who passed away age 62 from a rare cancer, Liposarcoma, when Elaine was just 23.

“I remember every Father’s Day, growing up, I’d make him breakfast in bed. He loved Silvermints,” says Elaine.

“When I sat on his knee I’d steal the mints form his pocket.

“Later, on Father’s Day, I’d make him a sandwich with a smiley face decorated with Silvermints on the top of the sandwich. He was chuffed!”

Sean died before his time.

“My dad was snatched away prematurely. He went before his time,” says Elaine. “It was very tough.”

Elaine’s star was in the ascendency. TV was her destiny. After studying in the Institute of Technology Dublin and working in a radio station in Cork, she joined TV3 in 2000 working as a newsreader and presenter of Morning Ireland AM, before head-lining her own TV panel show, Elaine.

“I had just started reading the news when dad was diagnosed with cancer,” say Elaine, whose glittering career spans over 20 years.

“TV3 was still in its infancy. Dad was very ill at home in Cork and he was getting a second opinion from the oncology team in the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin. We hoped his life could be prolonged.”

Sean could connect with his daughter from his hospital bed.

“Dad used to watch my news first on TV3 and then he’d watch the ‘real’ news on RTÉ at 6pm! He only ever thought the real news was on RTÉ! I remember I’d do the 11am news update on TV3 in studio and then I’d fly over to the hospital to see dad.”

Colette Fitzpatrick, Ciara O' Doherty, Elaine Crowley, Karen Koster and Muireann O Connell at Virgin Media Television's Spring Schedule launch in The Westin, Dublin. Pic Brian McEvoy
Colette Fitzpatrick, Ciara O' Doherty, Elaine Crowley, Karen Koster and Muireann O Connell at Virgin Media Television's Spring Schedule launch in The Westin, Dublin. Pic Brian McEvoy

Did he live to see Elaine’s amazing success in the media?

“No, he wasn’t around when my career started to progress,” says Elaine.

“He was alive and well when I first started work in TV3. And I know he was very proud of me.”

Sean Crowley always championed his daughter.

“As a teenager, I was quite sporty and athletic,” says Elaine.

“Dad always came to my basketball matches. Would you believe I never had basketball boots! One Saturday I scored a rake of points in the match for the team. At the next match the following weekend I was going on court and dad took hold of my hand and handed me a brand new pair of basketball boots.”

Elaine says her dad was a pivotal role model in her life.

“When he died I went to pieces,” she says.

“I struggled for a while in my thirties. Dad was my role model. He and my mother were very happy together all their married life.”

“They really were a stunning couple. I look back at old photographs of my parents. They were just like movie stars, a real Hollywood couple, who were very striking. My mother was devastated after she lost dad. She was very lonesome after him.”

Elaine says when she first began working in Dublin, it was a lonely place to be.

“It was pretty horrific,” says Elaine. “But that was where the work was. Having come from a big family and coming from Cork, enjoying the homely banter as only you can do in North Cork, I missed home dreadfully. I knew no-one at all in Dublin and it was a very lonely time for me.”

Now that she’s famous on our TV screens, and is ambassador for Breast Cancer Ireland, and has another amazing man in her life, boyfriend Keith Condon; Elaine is never lonely.

“That is for sure!” she says.

Elaine Crowley. Picture: Evan Doherty Photography
Elaine Crowley. Picture: Evan Doherty Photography

But some things never change.

“I still love going home to Cork. I love the banter and the craíc there!”

And she is grounded in her home ground of North Cork.

“I was never one for notions! Notions are soon knocked out of you in North Cork!”

Often, through coincidence, daughters find the traits of their dads in their partner. Is Keith like Sean?

“He is a hard-worker and he has lovely traits,” says Elaine. “He and dad are a bit alike.”

And like her dad, Keith is handsome too.

“Yes he is!” says Elaine, laughing.

She is fortunate to have known true love throughout her life.

“My dad was really precious to me. We had a unique relationship. He was my anchor who cannot be replaced,” says Elaine.

“It would be hard for anyone to measure up to dad.”

Sean and Elaine looked alike.

“Yes. In my 20s we were Cork mirrors of each other, with red hair and green eyes!”

In lockdown Elaine used her own traits she learned growing up in the busy household in Newtwopothouse to keep herself busy.

“I did a lot of cooking, cleaning and hoovering!”

Like thousands of others around the country, Elaine did a lot of walking too.

“I started walking to work every day, which is based at the Red Cow Inn on the Naas Road, Dublin,” says Elaine.

“It is a fair walk from where I live in Kimmage. I am walking the ass off myself!

Is that why she is looking so svelte lately?

“Honestly, I really think walking is the way to go to get fit and healthy.”

Elaine is looking forward to travelling to Newtwopothouse next month to see her mother and to do a bit of walking nearer home.

“My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer last year but she is doing well, having responded to treatment,” says Elaine.

“She is a strong lady. I can’t wait to see her. I haven’t seen my mother since February. It seems like ages ago.”

With sons and daughters getting ready to celebrate their dads on June 21, Elaine says she will miss hers terribly.

“I’d give anything for one more hug from my dad,” says Elaine.

“Everyone should cherish their dad. And anyone who hasn’t seen their dad, or who has fallen out with their dad; they should address that straight away.

“When that time is gone with your father, you can never get it back. That is the reality.”

Does Elaine, one of 10 children from rural North Cork, ever pinch herself knowing the reality is that her daytime Virgin Media programme called after its host is one of the most popular shows on TV?

“You know, I never think of it as ‘Elaine’. I know I host the programme and I produce it. But, then, that is what I do.”

It is what she does best.

But then, Elaine Crowley was never one for notions.

l’d give anything for one more hug from my dad. Everyone should cherish their dad. And anyone who hasn’t seen their dad, or who has fallen out... they should address that straight away.

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