Wednesday 28 June 2017

'Nothing comes close to the pain of losing my child' - Irish singer Donna Taggart on her son Michael who was tragically stillborn

Donna Taggart's music career took off when she recorded a song that resonated with her and husband Colm

Donna Taggart pictured with her young family Photo credit: Facebook/Donna Taggart
Donna Taggart pictured with her young family Photo credit: Facebook/Donna Taggart
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Donna Taggart met her husband Colm McCaughey 10 years ago when she was working as a cleaner in Omagh County Hospital to help pay for college. Colm was working in IT there, and he introduced himself rather cheekily on a Christmas night out.

"He said, 'Oh you can give my shoes a polish'," laughs Donna, adding that the bold Colm also pretended he was a doctor. 

"I was definitely a bit cheeky, but I wanted to wind her up a bit because I really fancied her," says Colm.

"I was lucky that it worked. I liked Donna because she was a lady with a lot of class. She was ordinary, but in an extraordinary way, and she was very caring and had good empathy."

With almost 80 million views on Facebook for her single Jealous of the Angels, and her album Celtic Lady Vol.2 going straight to No. 1 in the Billboard World Music chart and remaining there for three weeks, Donna has become a global sensation. She was pursuing a different path when she first met Colm, as she went to Liverpool University shortly afterwards to study early years in education. There were a lot of phone calls back and forth, but they got to know each other quite well. When she came back, the relationship progressed from there.

Donna (31) is from the small village of Clanabogan in Omagh, and is the oldest of Martin and Mark's five girls. Her dad was a touring musician and they had a quiet life growing up in the countryside. After her degree in Liverpool, she worked for five years with children in the field of domestic violence, and was co-ordinator of services for a refuge in Omagh.

She was working on the children's autism team in the health service, doing behavioural support and direct intervention with children and families. However, with the sudden huge demand for her music, she is taking a step away from her health service work this year.

"It felt like I was doing two full-time jobs for the past year," she explains.

Donna Taggart and Colm McAughey met while working in the hospital in Omagh. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Donna Taggart and Colm McAughey met while working in the hospital in Omagh. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Colm (37) is from the village of Augher in Omagh and is the youngest of Maureen and Sean's nine children. He was hugely into GAA and played for his local club until he got injured in his late twenties and then managed Augher GFC, a very successful team.

"I liked Colm as he was honest and grounded," says Donna. "He was handsome, but we don't tell each other those things after 10 years."

Donna and Colm were married in 2011 and their first child, Grace, was born in November 2013. "Colm was managing the GAA team and their last match was on the day I went into labour," Donna recalls. "It was Sunday at 11am and he asked the nurse what the chances were of the baby coming between then and 6pm? She said 'slim' so I told him to go off to the match. Luckily Grace didn't arrive until well into the next day."

Donna and Colm also had a little boy, Micheal, who was sadly born sleeping in August 2014. He was due to be born in December, and when Donna went for a scan, she was given the devastating news that there was no heartbeat. "It was very tough and Micheal has a very special place within our family," she says.

Their third child, Matthew, is now 14 months old, so Donna and Colm have their hands full. Even more so now that her music career has taken off so dramatically. Donna began singing at 22 but was very shy. Her confidence grew gradually as people asked her to sing at things. She recorded an album in 2011, which did quite well, and on her second album, she recorded the track Jealous of the Angels, written by Jenn Bostic, and put the video up on Facebook. Within three days, there were 12 million hits on it, much to her astonishment.

"I think that the song has particular resonance for people who have lost someone," she says, "Grief hits everyone at some point, and we saw lots of people tagging or sharing it in memory of their loved ones. The song had a big effect on me and on Colm personally, and I thought there was something very raw, emotional and honest about the lyrics. It also had a gentle and sweet melody so that combination was special, but I never anticipated that it would be so successful. I felt so overwhelmed at the start. People were messaging me who had lost loved ones in 9/11 and the Paris and Nice attacks. I had loss in my life prior to recording the song, but nothing has come close to the pain of losing my child so it really resonates now."

Donna was on maternity leave at the time, and read Mary Black's autobiography, in which Mary talks about how her career in music really only began in earnest when she had children, This inspired Donna to take a career break, and she began performing and supporting people like Phil Coulter.

She is now thrilled to be embarking on her first tour of Ireland, beginning next week in Cork and ending in Dublin. Jenn Bostic is also coming here to be part of it.

Donna says that Colm has been an amazing support to her through it all and has always encouraged her.

"I am so proud of Donna, as to me she has it all and she is so special," he says. "The world is her oyster now with her music."

Donna Taggart embarks on her first solo tour this month, which includes the Cork Opera House on February 9 and National Concert Hall on February 26. A full list of dates is on her website: www.donnataggart.com

Sunday Independent

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