Danny Tim: 'It's a miracle I'm able to enjoy my beloved Kerry'

Danny Tim O'Sullivan speaks for the first time about his life-changing brain aneurysm and his long road to recovery. Sinead Kelleher reports.

Danny Tim and his wife, Sheila O’Sullivan, at home in Gleesk, Kells. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
Danny Tim and his wife, Sheila O’Sullivan, at home in Gleesk, Kells. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

There are few more grateful to be alive today than Glenbeigh native Danny Tim O'Sullivan.

Indeed, walking around and meeting the locals was something Danny Tim didn't think was possible over a year ago after he suffered a brain aneurysm while training for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle.

He spent almost four months in hospital with no idea where he was or what had happened. And, to this day, he can't recall this time.

"From June 27 to October 1, I don't remember anything. They showed me photos, and I actually said to my wife 'you are an awful woman to put me in here to this place'. I was in an awful state. I came out of hospital in December. I had to learn to walk and talk and eat."

It was a disturbing time for Danny Tim, one he still finds difficult to talk about, but he recalls as much as he can with huge emotion, recounting experiences that he felt could be life-changing, if not life-ending.

"It was like coming back from the dead," he reveals.

Bed-bound in intensive care, news of Danny Tim's condition in June last year sent shock waves across the county. One of the county's best-known sons - both in Kerry and his adopted London - news of his plight was spoken about in many circles.

He believes that the huge support he received from both sides of the Irish sea helped him achieve the miraculous recovery he has made today.

"I could be in a wheelchair but, thanks be to almighty God, I got wonderful support from the public and the many Masses that were said.

"It is great the way I am today. I can remember things that happened 50 years ago, but things that happened last week are more difficult as my short-term memory is affected - but it is coming back.

"I want to thank people for the Masses, as their support helped me a lot on both sides of the Irish Sea. I very much appreciate it. I can't thank them all personally, but I am grateful for the support."

For Danny Tim, the accident has been a significant turning-point in his life.

He didn't know if he would ever get better, and he is most grateful for the fact that he is here today and that he is able to hand over the reins to the next generation.

Family is important to him, not least his wife, Sheila, who is from Portmagee but met Danny Tim in London. They have been married for 37 years and she is his stalwart - the woman who was by his side every single day after the aneurysm.

"I have a wonderful wife and family. That is what got me through. I was very lucky with the woman I married; she brought me great luck," he says.

One of the success stories of the Irish emigration wave of the early 1970s, Danny Tim left Glenbeigh for the UK in January 1971 to work "a campaign" in the Sugar Beet Factory.

In total he did six campaigns in the factory, and in between those campaigns, which run from October to February, it was back to working on the construction sites.

And that's how he got his lucky break.

"I was working for a subcontractor, and he asked me would I take on the job. I was lucky, very lucky I had some great people working for me. You are only as good as your people."

From his first contract on Surrey Docks, he later set up his own company, starting with a few hundred staff, eventually expanding to 1,500 across the UK. He went on to work on some of the UK's biggest projects, including many of the major railway and motorway initiatives.

The company supplies labour for leading projects, and current projects include Hindley Point oil refinery and the HS2 running from London to Edinburgh, which has led to new offices in Birmingham.

He has given hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Kerrymen and Irishmen a solid start in life when they too crossed the Irish Sea.

And says he always tries to ensure that his county and his home place benefits from his success, helping sponsor and support organisations across Kerry that needed and sought his help.

He has also helped many Irish organisations in the UK.

Chairman of the Kerry Association in London and a former 'Kerry Person of the Year', he says he has been lucky to be able to give back but also admits that hard work, determination and choosing the right staff have played a huge part in success.

"It won't happen without making it happen," he says. "You are only as good as your men. I had and have great men behind me."

He does have rules for life, and one of them is to be "straight and honest".He believes that helping others will come back to you, and it has in more ways than one.

"There was a late friend of mine once that I buried. He didn't have anything, and that evening I got a call to say I got a big contract. I firmly believe that if you give it will come back to you again. If you look after somebody it will come back to you," he said.

Danny Tim and Sheila have five children, Daniel, Timothy, Patsy, Caroline and Julie, and three grandchildren - Seamie, Jay and Daniel.

Much of his company's new projects are now being overseen by Timothy, who he has handed the reins over to in an increased capacity since his accident.

He knows it's the right time to step back and take life a bit easier, and he's now living in Kells in his beloved Kerry, where he plans to spend his time farming and - his real love - meeting people at fairs and events around the county.

And next on his agenda is the Puck Fair and the August 15 Fair in Kenmare.

"I am 64; I'm happy once I can get up and around and go to the fairs and meet the people and meet the public."

And that sums up his attitude - happy to be here and happy to be walking around.