Longford Leader columnist Mattie Fox: Allen family values

Mattie Fox

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Mattie Fox

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newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Darina Allen and Rory O'Connell

Darina Allen with Rory O'Connell

The first time we encountered Darina Allen was many, many moons ago when we were staying in a lovely old guesthouse in Connemara, Moyard, Co Galway.

The house was run by an elderly lady with a strong west Brit accent.

She grew all her own vegetables, fruit, and herbs and did all the cooking.

It was early in the season and was very quiet. Taking a stroll around the well kept garden we noticed another lady doing likewise, but she was also obviously taking a keen interest in how things were being done, to the extent of taking copious notes in a small notebook.

The following day her husband arrived, and again the visit was purposeful and educational in content.

The lady of the house, Mrs Fretwell, was not totally impressed and expressed the view to us that she knew exactly where they came from, Ballymaloe, Co Cork, and could see clearly that they were on a fact finding mission.

Ballymaloe was already well established by Myrtle Allen as a restaurant and guest house, and we since followed Darina’s rise to fame with great interest after our meeting.

Last Saturdays Irish Independent Magazine carried an article on Darina and her new book.

We find their ethos and family values very beguiling.

Here she is now, at 70 years of age - still working outside and in - using recycled containers for growing food, dressed in wellingtons and smiling for all the world to see.

The photography was real. No glamorous pose, with ultra perfect makeup, no airbrushing of lines.

This is a real person, a real star, who exudes a healthy energy that she wants to impart to others.

The Allen dynasty is a terrific example of the power of family influence, at its best.

The work started by Myrtle, carried on and improved by Darina, and still being carried on by Rachel, is real success.

Each generation brought the ethos from the past, but framed and expanded it to move with the times.

There is a real lesson here in the powerful value of a working ethos.

All work hard, yet never lose the concept of a healthy eating lifestyle.

Having demonstrated cooking skills to us now for decades, Darina’s new book is encouraging us to grow our own; whether in boxes, tubs, or gardens. There’s always a way.

Her mother used to say that if you’re not giving your time to healthy food, you might as well give your money to the doctor or the chemist!

Maybe we should listen.

It might even unclog our overcrowded A & E departments.