All posts by Dee Sewell

Margaret Kirwan Force of Nature - by Tara Heavey

Guest Post: Mag Kirwan A Force of Nature

Guest Post from Tara Heavey

Margaret Kirwan Force of Nature - by Tara Heavey

Tara Heavey

I had a visit from a friend last week asking if she could write a guest blog for my website. I agreed immediately, with a promise that I wouldn’t edit it and would trust her to do a good job.

I presumed it would be around our business but to my surprise she wrote about yours truly.

Tara Heavey was born and raised in London, moved to Dublin aged 12, and attended Greendale Community School (whose teachers included Paul Mercier and Roddy Doyle). Tara practised Law for five years, before turning to writing full time. She now lives in County Kilkenny.

Tara is a quietly spoken lady and one would never think Fifty Shades of Grey in her writing, until I read her first novel!!! Unbeknownst, before I read it, I gave Tara’s novel to my mother, who is an avid reader and boy did I have a laugh when I asked her how she enjoyed the book.

You would think butter wouldn’t melt in Tara’s mouth; I cannot look at her in the same light ever since.  Check out Tara’s books for yourself.

Hope you enjoy the guest post.

Margaret Kirwan: Force of Nature


The first time I met Mag Kirwan, she was part of the snot-wiping, nappy-changing brigade.  Not her own, I hasten to add.  She was in the throes of early motherhood.  A role to which she brought her customary joie de vivre.  Paraic was the baby at the time, a curly headed cherub, now a curly haired pre-teen Adonis.  And his mother has undergone a similar transformation in the time since I have known her.

Because who could have predicted the business woman hidden within?  Like a big cat poised to leap.  Possibly those that know her well.  Her close friends, many of whom she has retained since their school days.  Her enormous, closely knit family.  Her formidable mother, in whose indomitable footsteps she follows.  It makes me wonder about their female ancestry, those warrior women going back generations.  And who and what her daughters will become.  The gazelle-like Aine.  The impish Orlaith – my own daughter’s oldest friend.

I suspect Mag herself knew all along.  Because I’ve rarely met a woman with such unshakeable confidence in herself.  Such boundless positivity.  It’s almost – and I hate to say it – un-Irish.  Even though she loves her country and is every inch the Kilkenny woman.  But it’s a lesson to all of us.  Not to play it small or play ourselves down.  Not to hide our own lights, in the mistaken belief that it will make others feel better about themselves, or perhaps make them like us more.  But instead to inspire and lead the way.  Spur on others to reach their own goals.  It’s what makes her proudly admit that she finds her own children gorgeous.  That causes her to say ‘thank you’ when someone admires her dress, instead of lowering her eyes and saying ‘this old thing’.  Like I said.  Gloriously un-Irish.  And it’s that same confidence transferred, that caused her eldest, Ned, to declare to a visitor to their fish farm, at the time of the economic crash, that Goatsbridge Trout Farm was going to make it through the recession.  Make it they did.  With bells on.  Isn’t that the kind of self belief we all want to instill into our children?

It was this self-belief that launched Goatsbridge Trout caviar.  Everyone thought she was nuts.  But did she listen?  Did she hell.  Proving once again that she was one of the sanest people around.  Because in a world gone mad, it often pays to go against the grain.  And leave the naysayers gawping open mouthed in your wake.

But it’s not all business and plain sailing for Margaret.  She’s gone through her dark times and more than her fair share of losses, notably the deaths of her father and brother at a tragically young age.  She is startlingly and refreshingly open when she speaks about the difficulties that this caused her and her struggles to overcome the pain of this loss.  My own opinion is that is taught her at a gut level that life is short and that each opportunity should be grabbed by its you-know-whats.  And it also taught her empathy for other people’s pain.  It was this empathy which accompanied her and a good friend into a chemotherapy session.  So the friend would not be alone.  So she wouldn’t be afraid.  And it was with her as she minded that friend’s children, as she made her recovery.  It is also present when she is there for her siblings. as they navigate life’s inevitable rocky patches.

Am I making her sound like a saint?  Because she isn’t.  Neither am I.  And neither are you.

You could be forgiven for thinking that every time you open a business page these days, an image of Margaret Kirwan is smiling back at you, together with her husband Ger, he of the movie star looks.  Standing like a rock beside her.  As if they were carved out for one other.

They head a household in which family and business are almost indistinguishable, each blending seamlessly and wrapping around the other.  And at the heart of this home, a woman of incredible drive and entrepreneurial spirit.  A force of nature if ever I saw one.

A Lesson or a Blessing

A Lesson or A Blessing?

A Lesson or a Blessing

“Everything happens for a reason they say. It is either a lesson or a blessing “

A Blessing or a Lesson?

I certainly think if we live by this quote we will all lead happy lives.  Whether something is a blessing or a lesson is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months. Lots of things going on in Goatsbridge  at present,  some good, some challenging but all lessons to help us move on to become better and stronger.

I remember a couple of years ago, pitching an idea to a very engaging and successful Dublin business man who I had admired for years. Alas, it did not happen for me, not because the idea was not a sound one or that we would not deliver the idea, but perhaps because the decision not to support the idea was not a business decision. I learned this later but at the time I was utterly devastated.   As I look back on what has happened, I now realise that better opportunities have presented themselves because of that failure.

I remember the rejection I felt when a friend of my older brother decided I was not for him.  Many years later as I stood beside my husband, I remember seeing this old boyfriend across a crowded room with his wife; he looked like an old man as a result of a bad back. I turned to my mother who stood beside me and declared I had made a lucky escape as I gazed lovingly at my handsome husband. My mother turned to me full of laughter and told me that perhaps I had missed out as that man had just inherited his uncle’s farm worth millions!

If only we had the benefit of hindsight we would all be more accepting of life and all it throws at us.

Never look back, never regret, and do not waste time or energy trying to change the past.


Fishwives Cookery Book


We should not limit our challenges but challenge our limits.


Earlier this year I challenged those around me to help put a recipe book together in four months and we luckily achieved our goal.  The end result is a beautiful fish recipe book called Fishwives, available now in our online shop. All  profits from the sale of the book will be going to the wonderful Hospice Africa working out in Uganda. They will be channeled through Hospice Africa Ireland, a board in Ireland which fund raises and supports Hospice Africa Uganda. See for more information.

Looking back on it now I suggest it was interesting, and overcoming the challenge certainly made my life meaningful.

I now look on to the next challenge and it is to ensure that every household in the country has a copy of this book under their tree this Christmas.

Fishwives Cookery Book


I challenge you to help me make this a reality.

Fishwives Themed Get Together

Why not have a Fishwives themed get together with friends and family, cook something from the book or simply encourage them to purchase the book on the night – a bit like a tuperware party only cooking with fish.

Or perhaps you have a database of foodies or friends interested in cooking who might like a very special and unique book as a present. Would it help that all proceeds are going to a very worthy cause?

We will give free product to anyone willing to put their shoulder to the wheel and our staff are happy to travel the length and breadth of the country to be part of your event. All ideas welcome.

My sister Miriam Donohoe has spent 8 months on the ground in Kampala working with the hospice organisation and reported back first-hand the work being carried out daily to help relieve pain and suffering of those with no access to pain relief in their dying days . We are all weary of the bad media around so called charitable organisations but it does not mean we have to stop caring and become totally cynical. I know for sure where every single penny of the money raised form this project will go.

Come on folks, life is not all about getting and having. How about giving and being?

Fish Wives Cookery Book

FishWives – A Fish Recipe Book

Fish Wives - A Fish Recipe Cookery Book from Goatsbridge Trout Farm

Walt Disney once said “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”. This is exactly what I decide to do a few weeks ago when I opened yet another fish recipe book that did not include Rainbow trout in its index. I felt it was time to stop moaning about it and do something once and for all.  Yes folks, I have decided to edit a fish recipe book featuring almost nothing except Trout recipes! This will however, be a fish recipe book with a difference.

Hospice Africa Uganda

All profits will go to an amazing charity Hospice Africa Uganda. My connection is that my sister, journalist Miriam Donohoe, has been working with the charity in Kampala as a volunteer since January 2016. The mission of Hospice Africa Uganda is to end pain and suffering faced by thousands in Africa due to poor health services and to ensure that seriously ill people die pain free, in peace, comfort and dignity.

Fish Recipe Cook Book

The cookery book is to be called “Fishwives”, with a selection of what I hope are mainly trout recipes from women in Ireland and Uganda from diverse backgrounds and professions. But if it’s not a trout recipe that’s okay – you could still be a fishwife!

Goatsbridge Trout is funding the entire cost of designing and producing the book. Proceeds from sales will go to Hospice Africa Uganda. The book will cost €20 and I am printing 3,000 copies, €15 from each sale will go to Hospice Africa Uganda. The other €5 is the print cost. I have an ambitious target to raise €40,000 for Hospice Africa Uganda, to be channeled through Hospice Africa Ireland, a board which fund raises and supports Hospice Africa Uganda.

Have a read of  one of the many articles written by my sister Miriam since she arrived in Uganda. It will give you a great account of the work of hospice and the huge need.

So here is my ask. Would you contribute your favourite trout or fish recipe for the book? What I need is:

  • A fish recipe plus a digital picture of the recipe – a basic photo is fine as we will be reproducing the picture after testing the recipe.
  • A short biography, not more than 125 words.
  • A high resolution profile picture of yourself. If you don’t have one at hand I can arrange for one to be taken at your convenience.

The deadline for submission is 31st July 2016.

Fish Wives - A Fish Recipe Cookery Book from Goatsbridge Trout

See example Fish Wives sample cook book page from Caroline Hennessy

I have a book designer in Slater design and a printer sourced and commissioned for the project. The plan is to launch the book at The Savour Kilkenny Food Festival on Friday 28th October 2016. Why not put your thinking hats on and send me on your favourite trout recipe along with your details to We have a limit on the number of recipes but who knows, we may publish a second book!

As an old friend of mine once said

“We are here to do good to others. What the others are here for I do not know”!!

Lessons in Business from a 13 year old

Lesson's in Business from a 13 year oldDesire is the key to motivation, but it is determination and commitment that will enable you to attain success.

A few weeks ago at the school Leinster finals in Santry, Co. Dublin, along with her running team mates form Loreto College, our 13 year old achieved that success. They then went on to win in the All Ireland Cross Country final in the under 14 category in Sligo.

Nothing in this world can take the place of desire, dedication, determination, concentration and the will to win, not even talent.

Lesson's in Business from a 13 year oldThere are lots of things happening in Goatsbridge right now and I cannot help but compare our girl’s success with the success we are trying to achieve here in our business. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we succeed or not, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. Goatsbridge were delighted to come out on top in the Regional Finals of the Enterprise Awards last week and will now go on to represent Kilkenny in the National Finals in June this year .

Funnily enough Aine did tell me after the race,that I was not to attempt to put any pictures on Facebook of her. She told me she was not cocky like her mother and mimicked me with a rye smile saying “my trout is wonderful “.  I had to put her in her place and informed her it was not cockiness I was displaying but an absolute belief in our product and the work we are doing here at Goatsbridge. You see I have to believe with all my heart that our trout are wonderful. How else could I do my job?

Lesson's in Business from a 13 year oldMore than anything else Aine loves running in the team events, running for each other, and the fun they have especially when they come out on top. She is lucky enough to have hit upon a very good group of girls in Kilkenny and it looks as if they have a bright future ahead.

Although Aine came out on top at the Leinster finals she was not quite as successful in Sligo.  For some unknown reason, she had to pull up a few hundred metres into the race and to my horror she got physically sick, three times in fact. Disaster beckoned but to my great surprise she got up again and began to run, passing out runners one by one to eventually finish 13th overall.

That placing helped the team make history to become the first team in that age category in Loreto to come home with a Gold All Ireland Medal. Sometimes failure is not a bad thing because success is sweet and sweeter if long delayed and gotten through many struggles and defeats. Aine is one of the gutsiest and unassuming people I know and this is what makes me so proud. She is like the many successful lovely unassuming business people I have had the pleasure to meet and admire over the years.

I firmly believe we in Goatsbridge must realise it is not about the individual but about the team, a team I have been working hard to build. A team of people better than ourselves bringing skills to the table and skills we could never hope to have otherwise.

We are just about to embark upon the next phase of our business development, I have no doubt it will not be an easy run, it will be full of undulations and uphill struggles. But I will take that look of determination from Aines face with me every day and together we will get there, eventually.

Celebrating Strong Women

Mother's Day - Donohue Family

Kitty 80, Martin 53, Miriam 52, Mag 50, Louise 49, Edmond 47, Cathy 44, Joanne 41, Mike 37, Jim 34

My Mother

Mother’s day is almost upon us and I’m sitting here in my office reflecting on the life of my own mother, as well as my role as a mother in the Kirwan family.

My mother (Kitty) is a walking miracle.

She was widowed at the age of 42 when she was seven months pregnant with her 10th child. She had nine other children under the age of 14 to feed and educate.

Another tragedy stuck the family two years later when my little brother and buddy Jack, died of measles at the age of 10.

A few years after that my mother survived a very serious car crash and spent months in hospital having broken every bone in her body. She lived to tell the tale and even suggests her scars make her more interesting! How did she cope one could ask? Eleanor Roosevelt once said

“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

This proved so true in the case of my mother.

My mother spent her life growing the family business of marketing horses. Goresbridge Horse Sales, now run by my brother Martin, is thriving. Kitty is a very young 80 year old still actively working alongside him.

What I admire most of all about my mother was her ability to let go and allow us to make our own decisions and ultimately mistakes from time to time. I remember vividly not having to ask permission to go out once I reached my 18th birthday. So many parents never let go and succession can be a big issue in many family businesses.

All that I am or hope to be I owe to my mother.

My mother taught me about perseverance and courage and she raised us with strength and a passion that I wish could be bottled. She taught by example and has always encouraged me in my own life as a mother to be good to myself and not to try and be a hero.  I stop in my track sometimes when I hear my mother in my voice as I engage with my own kids. I do not think they fear me as we feared our mother when she told us she would “cut the snot off us”!!! She always knew, and still does, where each of us are at any one moment in time and you dare not tell her you have not been to mass.

I am sure if all mothers could meet around the world there would be no more war.

So here is a thought to strong women; may we know them, support them, raise them and  ultimately be them .

Bobby – New years resolution 2016

Bobby - New Year Resolutions 2016

New Year is a time to reflect and take stock of what worked well last year and what is needed to happen differently for the year ahead.

I always take out an A4 page after Christmas and physically write down my objectives. I hate the term New Year’s resolution perhaps because I always feel resolutions are hard to keep and objective are something to be attained.

Yesterday I sat in my office and began to write. I lay out my objectives to gain more market share for our range of products, to add one more product to that range, to improve fish yield by 1 % and so on.   I then talked about digitizing and streamlining everything possible to reduce the time, expense, and waste, continuing to foster and build a more robust company culture encouraging personal development among staff. I suggested concentrating my energy into fewer things and I even committed to continuing the family forum sessions we begum after Christmas as a result of something I read in Orla Carmody’ s new book  “Perform as a Leader “.

I was then kicked back into reality when I received a beautiful text reply from my fellow Kilkenny businessman and friend Bobby Kerr. It stopped me in my tracks as I was engrossed in my plans.

Bobby, as you probably all know by now, was diagnosed with head and neck cancer a number of months ago. He came out quite publically to tell the nation of his plight, but a plight that befalls approximately 35,000 people in Ireland every year so he is not alone. The fact that Bobby is a much loved public figure meant that his honesty and openness just may have helped many people, especially men in Ireland, to take action and look after themselves better, something that men seem to be very reluctant to do for some reason .

So I do not want to take this opportunity to detail my objectives for the business, but to talk about what is truly important, something that has hit home for Bobby as a result of the harrowing times he has experienced over the last three months.

Bobby Kerr’s lessons in life:

  • Life goes on without you.
  • People are fundamentally decent.
  • Life is short and for living.
  • Only three things in life matter health, family, and good friends…

“So get out there, get yourself checked, Love and be loved and enjoy life to the fullest because none of us know how long we have left on this wonderful planet.”

And besides…
Bobby - New Year Resolutions 2016


Photo header: (license)

Christmas at Goatsbridge Trout Farm

Christmas at Goatsbridge Trout Farm… it’s coming!


No one knows what anticipation is nowadays as everything is so immediate. Anticipation is the electricity of childhood. I can distinctly remember one year as a ten year old asking my mother how many days left till Christmas. I then spent the next 252 days counting down until the day arrived.

I can still feel that anticipation for the hope of Christmas as I felt the presents rustling at the end of my bed at four in the morning, much to my mother’s horror. Christmas was always a long day of tinned sweets, card playing and an excess that rarely happened in our house with nine brothers and sisters.  When Christmas Day comes there is still that same warm feeling that enfolded our hearts, as we had as children.

I somehow remember the year after my father died and my mother telling me we were going to have a great day regardless because Christmas was compulsory. And guess what! Santa still came and brought his usual apple or orange which we always thought very strange. I guess it was symbolic for my mother of her Christmases long ago when an orange was a luxury and she just wanted to make her case. We did not mind as long as we did not get anything too practical like clothes as there is nothing as mean as giving a child something useful for Christmas don’t you agree?

How times have changed for me over the following 40 years. Now I spend my time obsessing as I try and persuade everyone to consider using Goatsbridge trout as part of their festive celebrations. We will find any excuse to promote our trout recipes, encourage online trout sales and insist on support for our delicious home-grown smoked fish over the holiday period.

But somehow my kids kick me back into reality and I am catapulted back to my childhood as I read my youngest daughters Christmas letter to Santa. I think Santa should also throw in a spelling book!

Christmas at Goatsbridge Trout Farm

So let’s compromise and make Christmas the keeping-place for memories of our innocence but also Goatsbridge trout!


I will live to flog another Goatsbridge Trout!!!

It’s been nine days since that fateful day in October when I had, what I can only describe as, my Near Death Experience.

The day started out like any normal day. A day packed with the expectation of any other day as I prepared to head to Dublin to do a live TV3 program for Goatsbridge Trout on The 7 O’Clock Show.

The last conversation I remember having in my home town was with my local grocer’s daughters as I collected some dry cleaning.  We discussed the funeral of a friend James McHale, an American who facing death, did not want a traditional ceremony but something meaningful to his life, times and beliefs. It was the loveliest funeral at Woodbrook Natural Burial Ground in County Wexford. James received a glorious send-off with no priestly palaver – just a harmonica, a bodhrán and the soughing of the wind in the trees.

He was a writer and wrote the following which I will never forget:

 I love my friends neither with my heart nor with my mind.

Just in case…

Heart might stop.

Mind can forget.

I love them with my soul….

As I left the shop I told the girls that if I died I would like to be remembered just as James was remembered; they were to have a big party, quote poetry and laugh.

Little did I think two hours later as I drove up the M7 motorway, my life almost changed forever. I hit a car from behind that had experienced engine failure and had slowed down suddenly. I had cruise control on and for some reason I did not react fast enough.  The car went hurdling into the air, tumbled three times before coming to a standstill.

What did I think about? How did I feel?

I remember telling myself to go with the flow, not to fight it. I felt an inner peace, calmness. Once the car stopped I knew I was still alive but I waited for something to crash into my car as I thought I had landed on the opposite side of the motorway.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and we will call it fate. I was fated to live.

Beyond that time that innate fear of death we all seem to be born with just vanished. I really believe fear doesn’t stop death but it will stop life. Perhaps all of life is a near death experience.

As I was stretchered away I hurriedly passed the bag of trout goodies I was briging to the TV station for tastings to the lovely young nurse who was by my side as the paramedics removed me from the car. I then made her promise to use trout on her wedding menu early next year in Wexford .

I smiled to myself and thought of an expression I once heard … “Only the good die young”

I guess my job is not done.

Eat Trout

Photo credit: Aquarium I via photopin (license)