Without a shadow of doubt Donegal’s greatest and most loved celebrity is that man from Kincasslagh who has brought so much joy and happiness to so many people throughout the world over the years.
Daniel O’Donnell this year celebrated his 50th. Birthday with his wife Majella, mother Julia and all his family and friends as well as the whole nation on the Late Late Show.
Daniel O’Donnell is to Donegal what Tourism Ireland is to the whole country. He simply is our greatest ambassador and breathes a fresh breath of Donegal air to everybody he meets, no matter where he roams.
In the last year alone he has starred on the same stage as Olivia Newtown John, signed a deal to perform at the Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre in Branson and has had yet another top 10 UK Pop chart hit and all this when he was supposed to be taking it easy.
Just last week he appeared on BBC prime time television with Fern Britton when he showcased the county at it’s very best.
He said: “Fern is a great interviewer and I had met her on many previous occasions, mainly on shows such as ‘This Morning’. It was a very relaxed interview and I think that mush of the enjoyment we had doing it came across on the final production.”
Daniel also linked up with “Grease” star, Olivia Newtown-John when they all appeared together in North Dakota.
“I have met her before with Cliff (Richard) and it really was great to see her again - she really is a lovely person.”
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat Daniel said, “Greetings to you all in every corner of the county and whatever part of the world you may be reading the Democrat - I sincerely hope that you all had a great Christmas.
Christmas at home
“We enjoyed our Christmas at home in Donegal with the family and as always the highlight for me was to sing with the choir at mass on Christmas Eve.
“There is just something very special about this opportunity - it really evokes the true spirit of Christmas and maybe makes us all realise how lucky we all are.
“At this time of year we seem to look back and forward at the same time reflecting on the events of the year that’s past and looking forward with great anticipation of what might lie ahead. Although I had a good bit of time off as planned this past year, we did manage to do quite a bit of travelling. On a personal note my year started by getting a hole in one while golfing in Tenerife. Only golfers will know what a thrill that would be.
“We had a wonderful trip to Australia and New Zealand and enjoyed great shows in the UK, Ireland and America.
Daniel added that he had enjoyed some great experiences over the past year. There were many highlights for me this past year - the opening of the Visitor Centre in Dungloe, which I’m delighted to say the amount of people who have visited has exceeded all expectations.
“Getting the opportunity to take part in the first ever Relay for Life in Donegal was a memory I will never forget. Being awarded the freedom of Donegal is, along with Donegal Person of the Year back in 1989, my most treasured accolade.
“Like all Donegal people I can’t begin to express the pride and joy when Jim and the boys were victorious and brought Sam back to the hills.
”I just felt so privileged to be in Donegal on that wet September night. The atmosphere was incredible and it felt that the whole of the county was in Croke Park on that momentous day.
“It was a dream for me to be there both in Croke Park and on the Diamond - just to see Sam coming around the corner. I just couldn’t control my emotions. This was more than just a game of football - it was beyond explanation what it meant to the people of this county both at home and abroad. This team gave us all back our pride.”
Daniel speaks on emigration with a tinge of sadness but also with a lot of hope. “While travelling this past year especially in Australia and New Zealand, the realisation that so many of our young people have had to emigrate in the past couple of years became very clear to me.
“I hope somehow in the not too distant future our country will once again rise and prosper making it possible for many of these wonderful young people to return, as I know most of them would want to do so. With their return they will bring a vast wealth of new experience.
“The New Year will see me taking quite a long break from touring and I’m looking forward to spending time at home, doing a little travelling with Majella and just having some down time.
“Fans and friends will be aware that my mother Julia was ill for a short time this Autumn but then God and true to her form she has bounced back and before we went to Branson this year she was sitting at home in the corner of the room knitting gloves, scarves and socks at the grand young age of 93.
“In the New Year I will also be performing on the Caribbean Cruise between February 10th and February 17th. It’s a fantastic experience with entertainment going from morning to night - there will be just so many musicians taking part and even on the Sunday Mass during last year’s cruise, they danced an Irish set and the two priests joined in.
“I will begin touring again in August, so I’ll look forward to maybe seeing some of you at a show after that. I would like to thank you for your support this past year and indeed over the last 30 plus years I have celebrated in my career.
“This past year at our shows we have encouraged people to visit Ireland and especially Donegal for the celebration known as The Gathering Ireland 2013.
“This should be a wonderful year for those who visit our shores and for all of us who have the privilege to welcome them them home.
“It will be thirty years since I recorded “My Donegal Shore” in February - somebody asked me the other day if I was going to retire. I told them I had done 30 years and that while it would be difficult to say that I would do 30 more, I hope to be around for a lot of the next 30 also.
“On behalf of Majella , myself and all the O’Donnell family, I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and that it is everything you hoped it would ever be.”