After more than fifty-five years in the music business, she’s about to undertake a nationwide tour to mark her 70th birthday. The popular country singer talks to June McDonnell about the ups and downs of her amazing career.
‘No matter where I go it’s in my soul,
My feet may wander a thousand places,
But my heart will lead me back home to Donegal’.
The above lines from the song My Donegal by Patsy Cavanagh were etched in my mind as I spoke with Margo recently. No matter where she goes in the world – and she has been all over – the place most important to Margo is Donegal.
She is one of the most delightful people you could meet, warm and friendly. Chatting to her, I soon realised that she is an ‘open book’. Everything is up for discussion, good and not so good.
Margo was born on 6th February, 1951, in Donegal. She has a ‘big’ birthday next year so look out for the celebrations! Her infant years were divided between Acres, Burtonport, Co. Donegal which was her father’s home place, and Owey Island, where her mother hailed from. As a family, they lived in Scotland for a short while before finally moving to Kincasslagh.
Margo is the second eldest of five children. Her brother, John, is the eldest, then Margo, or Margaret, as she is known to the family. Her sister Kathleen arrived then, followed by James, and then young brother, Daniel.
Theirs was a very happy childhood playing in an idyllic area of the country. Like all families at that time, life for the O’Donnell family wasn’t easy. As young schoolchildren, Margo and her brother, John, went potato picking in Scotland during the school holidays along with other boys and girls from the area.
Margo always sang. She sang in the church and at concerts in the local St. Mary’s Hall. When they went back to Owey Island, the neighbours would gather in the evening and Margo would sing her little heart out. She was only about three years old and recalls her mother teaching her the songs as she herself couldn’t read at the time. Her local hall used to stage small plays during Lent, and Margo would sing during the interval.
She remembers the first time she went on stage, and the song she sang was The Road by the River.
“It’s a song that I recorded years later, and was a big hit for me,” she recalls. She could only have been about five years old at the time. If the USA had Shirley Temple as a child star, then Donegal had Margaret O’Donnell!
Growing up, Margo harboured the ambition of becoming a nurse, getting married and having children. However, as the old proverb goes ‘Man makes plans and God laughs’. It was not to be.
Margo’s talent as a singer was always recognised. In 1964, while still at school she was invited by a local showband, The Keynotes, to sing with them.