The Power of a Mother’s Love
Posted by Trevor on 30 January 2013 | Post a Comment
Readers of Three Simple Steps will know of my respect for the power of a mother’s love. It was noticeable in many of the autobiographies I read that successful people often drew inspiration from childhood, and particularly the leadership they observed in their mother in times of hardship. My life was the same. I look for it in the lives of modern self made men and women.
In the UK there is a TV sitcom called Mrs. Brown’s Boys, which now gets an audience of 8 million an episode. It is about an Irish mother who cares for her family and interferes in their affairs with comedic, calamitous results. I doubt it will ever come to the US networks, at least not in its original format, because there is a lot of profanity in it, and cursing on TV seems to be a capital offense in the US. The profanity is not used to insult anyone, but as an exclamation or punctuation just as it is in real life in Ireland. In the first episode the “f” word is used 34 times, but without it the rhythm of the sentences would fall flat. The BBC surprisingly recognizes this and allows it to air.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the show, and it is one of the few that makes me laugh out loud. The lead character is the mother figure of Agnes Brown, and is played by the show’s writer and director Brendan O’Carroll. That’s right; a bloke in a dress. Yes, it sounds so 1970’s corny, but it is all about the execution. Check out some clips on Youtube. (avoid if you don’t like profanity or lewd humor).
I could not help wondering about Brendan’s portrayal of the matriarch. He seems to capture all the power of a mother’s love. So, I looked up his background. Brendan O’Carroll’s story is fascinating. Now that he is famous with a hit TV show and a movie on its way, his biography is easier to find. Most journalists pick up on the fact that he has overcome many hardships on his version of the winding staircase including a business partnership where the partner ran off with the money, and then an attempt at a movie that lost its distributor, and plunged him into huge debt that he took years to pay off. On top of that his original work was savagely criticized. Yet he never quit.
Few reporters, however, cared about where he found the control of mentality to keep going, and to then bring out this larger than life character. Whereas others might have listened to the critics and given up, or taken the financial setbacks as a sign that he was on the wrong path, it did not seem to bother him. Control of mentality is something we learn, and I was curious where his came from.
He was the youngest of eleven kids and his showmanship started at an early age because of the sibling competition for attention. He realized that if he made people laugh at the dinner table he got more food. Managing the dinner table was his mother. She had been a nun, renounced her vows and then went on to have 11 kids. Bit of an unusual change in career direction you might say. They lived in subsidized housing in a poor part of Dublin. I would say that having to raise 11 kids like that is enough of a job for anyone, but to make it harder the father died when Brendan was seven.
How many would quit at that point? But we are talking about the power of a mother’s love and that never quits. This amazing woman not only kept going as the mother bringing up the family alone, she went on to become the first woman elected to the Irish parliament, the first female under-secretary of the United Nations, and the first female shadow-minister for foreign affairs in the world. All that while bringing up 11 kids in a council house. What an inspiration for those who cared to observe.
It does not stop there. When she stopped her political work, what money she had made she used to buy two houses across the street, knock them into one, and start a home for battered women and their children. Brendan and his siblings were then made to volunteer to work at the home.
As a result of spending his youth making beds, helping with the meals, and cleaning around the home, he went into the hotel trade. That is when his business partner ran off with the money. He bares no grudge because the need for money forced him to try his hand at stage comedy that all his mates in the pub said he would be good at. Necessity is often the mother of invention. He describes that first moment at the microphone as “Oh my God I am so free, and I knew at that moment I was where I was supposed to be.”
It is a great story, and another example of what controlling your mentality can get you. The story does not, however, end there. After stand-up comedy he put on five successful stage shows. For those and the following TV show, he used his real family for the cast. His character Agnes constantly teases her next-door neighbor, Winnie, who in real life is one of his sisters. The role of his daughter is played by his wife in real life, Kathy. One daughter in law is played by his daughter Fiona and the other by his actual daughter-in-law. His son in real-life plays the dubious character Buster. The producer, who also plays the character Trevor, is his real-life son-in-law, and in real life is married to Fiona. That must be a first in TV entertainment… a true family sitcom.
When TV came calling after the success of the stage shows, Brendan turned down many lucrative offers because they wanted to cast other better known actors for the parts. Eventually the BBC called and insisted on using the same family for the TV show. I think that is part of the charm of the show because no one can ad-lib like family. They come over as a real family and that adds to the impact.
Brendan’s mother must be very proud of him. Like so many mothers she taught him well, and like so many self-made people he was smart enough to recognize what unshakeable belief looks like.