The lonely death and troubled life of a wonderful Miss Ireland
Adrienne Rock Boucher was just 51 when she died. Barry Egan talks to the people who knew her best, and shared her pain
Part of a golden age of Irish life in the late 1980s, Adrienne Rock Boucher was one of Ireland’s original It Girls.
Her death on September 3 in the house in Foxrock where she lived alone left all those who knew Adrienne devastated at her loss at such a young age. She was just 51.
A bit of Dublin life seemed to die with her.
Everyone I spoke to about her seemed to be bursting with love — and sadness — for the vivacious brunette who won Miss Ireland in 1987. Adrienne’s last few years were increasingly painful as her alcoholism took a fatal grip on her life.
She had tried everything to loosen its hold. She went to St John of God hospital for treatment several times over the past 10 years and regularly to Alcoholics Anonymous. The notice for her funeral Mass last Wednesday morning at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock, tellingly said: ‘Donations, if desired, to Alcoholics Anonymous.’
Born January 11, 1965, she was a beautiful woman who left behind three children who loved her perhaps more, in the end, than Adrienne loved, or could love, herself. Her end was not the ending you imagined for a Miss Ireland with so much going for her.
Her little sister, Clodagh, recalls Adrienne’s modelling career starting in the early 1980s after she saw an ad in a newspaper.
“She was a great sister and included me in all the fun of the Miss Ireland excitement,” says Clodagh. “We were young and enjoyed the parties that inevitably followed the fashion shows.”
Adrienne married Andrew Boucher in 1990. “It was the day Ireland played Italy in the World Cup and we watched the match during the wedding reception.” Adrienne and Andrew sported green wigs during the match, “as a hilarious surprise to the guests”, recalls Clodagh.
“She had a wonderful big, hearty laugh,” said former top Irish model Siobhan Mahon last Thursday. “She was grounded and down to earth, and kind. I was very sad to hear Adrienne had passed away. She was a beautiful person, not just in looks but also in every sense. I was speaking to a few friends, like Marie Staunton and Maureen Heffernan, and none of us knew until after her funeral. It is shocking and terribly sad that she’s gone so young.”
“It’s long ago but I remember when I first met her,” said Siobhan McClafferty, Miss Ireland 1990, “and the first thing I thought was: she reminded me of Cindy Crawford. Dark hair, brown eyes and an amazing smile.”
Adrienne’s greatest love, says Clodagh, was her three grown-up, beautiful girls: Jade, Hollie and Sophie. “She was an incredible mother and did everything for her girls. Once she had her children, her work took a back seat and she devoted herself to them. She had terrific years with her girls and her husband. She also developed a very close bond with her husband’s family.”
Sadly, around 15 years ago, Adrienne developed an alcohol addiction. She couldn’t see it as an addiction. “So it was very difficult to help her,” says Clodagh.
Mary, a friend of Adrienne’s for 20 years, believes that Adrienne “began to drink at night to fill that hole in the pit of her stomach. Her drinking went from one bottle of wine to two”.
Adrienne spent time in St John of God in the early days, but, says her sister Clodagh, her addiction was chronic. It was “impossible” to get through to her and make her realise that she was harming herself.
Through all of this, the incredible soul and person that Adrienne was managed to shine through. “I remember one day she rallied the patients together to play rounders in the grounds,” says Clodagh — “something I don’t think ever happened there before.”
Adrienne went to Alcoholics Anonymous in “the mid stages” of her illness, says Clodagh. She kept AA’s book, Twelve Steps And Twelve Traditions, under her bed in her house in Foxrock. Clodagh says that her sister “obviously read it in her room as pages are highlighted and written on. However, I don’t think she could see the difference between her drinking and that of a non-alcoholic”.
Clodagh added: “We lost Adrienne last week and our lives will never be the same. We are heartbroken remembering the amazing, loving person she was, and are tortured thinking of the damaging effect alcohol had on her life. She has left behind the three most incredible, mature young women who are a credit to both Adrienne and their dad, Andrew.”
Adrienne’s eldest daughter, Jade Boucher (24), describes her late mother as a selfless soul who “would do anything and everything she could for us — her three little angels”, referring to herself, and her two younger sisters, Hollie (22), and Sophie (15).
“There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t attempt to do for us,” says Hollie. “We were and are her biggest achievements above all and she was so proud to be our mum. She told us this every time we spoke to her or saw her.”
“Every goodbye would end with, ‘I love you’,” adds Sophie.
Jade says the most memorable image that she and her sisters have of their mother is “how she tucked us into bed every night we were together — and turn us into mermaids by shaping our covers around us. She always kissed us goodnight and told us: ‘I love you to the stars and back’”.
Jade adds that they had so many adventures with her — from fishing in Sandycove (“and letting us bring home the fish to have as pets after us begging her all day and night,” says Hollie), to dressing up her daughters as the Teletubbies for Halloween.
“She loved her family so much and any chance she could she would throw the best birthdays and invite all of our friends. We would have friends over even on school nights, which made her the coolest mum to all our friends, which we loved,” says Sophie.
Sadly, Adrienne and Andrew’s marriage was not to last. They separated in 2003. Jade, Hollie and Sophie lived with their dad in Rathmichael. Adrienne lived on her own in Foxrock. This didn’t initially seem to outwardly affect Adrienne’s joie de vivre.
“When we weren’t living with mum,” says Jade, “we would call up during our lunch breaks and after school. She also would meet Sophie after school nearly every day to sneak her and her friends treats she had cooked specially. Sophie and her friends thought Adrienne was the coolest mum in the world. It just shows how thoughtful and loving she was. She would cook all our favourite foods.
“She used to feed the whole neighbourhood with her big, homemade square pizzas — the amount of us that would sit around the table and mum would be beaming to have everyone with smiles on our faces.” In hindsight, Adrienne was hiding her pain behind her smile.
Without her children, Adrienne was, says her pal Mary, “completely heartbroken and totally broken as a person. She was a girl who fooled the world with her amazing smile, but inside she felt dead. Those were her exact words”.
She loved her Friday nights with her girlfriends — Beverly, Jackie. Katherina, Teresa and Mary — and she loved her garden, says Jade. “It was her baby when we weren’t around. It was a distraction from all the sorrows in her life and hard times she was facing. There’s wasn’t a time we visited that there wasn’t a new addition to her garden. It was well looked after and blossoming.”
Tragically, the garden was everything that Adrienne wasn’t. Her life was one marked by a desire to be there for people. The saddest part is that Adrienne never quite knew how to be there for herself. She was a great friend to so many people, yet never knew quite how to be a great friend to herself.
“Although she was so bubbly and always had a smile on her face,” says Jade, “she was hiding an illness so strong. It was slowly taking over her life. It is an illness that no one can ever understand, unless you are in the same situation or fortunate to be someone who could overcome it.”
Jade adds that her mother tried to explain how she “felt” to us. “It’s something so hard to come to terms with. How could someone want their life to be like that? A good way to think of it is: if she could change the way it was taking such a hold of her life she would have.
“She hated hurting us, her friends and her family. Over the last few years it unfortunately took control of her life to the extent that she was pushing away those closest to her and those who loved her the most.
“She knew we were all there for her no matter what, and pushing us away was a defence mechanism so that she wouldn’t hurt us any further. She knew this illness was taking over her and she sadly wasn’t strong enough to conquer it.
“She felt very lonely in her last few months after the death of our beautiful granddad, her dad, her best friend,” Jade says, referring to Pat Rock who died 11 months ago.
Mary, her friend, recalls Adrienne saying to her last year that if anything happened to her father, what would she do, because he was her rock. Mary believes now that Adrienne “fell with him when Pat died, she was a broken girl. She went into complete isolation. She is now safe with her dad”.
“Mum has now gone to a place where she is at rest and rid of all her hurt. We will never stop missing her but there is a sense of relief as our beautiful mama is free of pain. We know she will be always there looking over us, giving us little signs. She’s now our guardian angel,” says Jade.
As someone wise once said: little angels we are born, but on the journey our wings get torn.
“We have spoken about Adrienne’s illness in a hope of breaking the taboo about alcoholism,” says Clodagh. “Society treats alcoholism as something that should not be spoken about. This ideology in itself is destructive to alcoholics. Not only do they have to endure the misery of the addiction but many feel they also have to hide it, making recovery difficult and, for some, impossible. By sharing Adrienne’s story we hope we can help others.”