'IN REAL LIFE'  by Lise Hand.  the Official Book


I come from a close family and my mum and dad brought all us kids to stick to one big rule: the family comes first – above everything. That understanding has kept us all really close, even as we have got older and moved away to get on with our lives.

The eldest is Finbarr. He’s 30 and is an industrial engineer in the west of Ireland. Next is Peter, who is 29, and a paediatric doctor in Dublin, and then there’s the first of the girls, Yvonne. She’s 28 and is a teacher at Mercy College girls’ school in Sligo. After her comes Liam, who is 27. He’s a qualified accounted, but he gave it up to look after horses and now he runs a big horse business with my dad. After Liam there is Denise, who is 23 and works as a physiotherapist at a hospital in Dublin. Then there’s Mairead, who is 21, and also lives in Dublin where she’s a marketing manger. I’m the last the baby of the bunch.

My dad, Peter, and his family have always owned restaurants, and when he moved to Sligo with my mum, Mae, in the 1960s they opened a small restaurant called The Mayfair with my uncle Luke. A little while later, when Sligo was a more happening place, they opened the Carlton Café in Castle Street, which really took off and was my family’s main business for years. We were the first people in the town to make burgers and chips!
Sligo was a great place to grow up and I always love it when I get a chance to go home. My family have always lived in the house above the restaurant. It doesn’t look big from the street, bit it goes way back and we’ve built on it over the years, so it’s massive now. I don’t remember when all of us children were in the house together because, by the time I was six or seven, the older guys were going off to college. Our house was always full and crazy and these days it is mad at Christmas. Because so many of the family reunion, so we have to lay on extra tables for about fifty people and it turns into an amazing party.

My mum is pretty good at organising a big party like that because she now looks after the restaurant. A good while back, my dad started buying and selling land and building up a horse business, which he now runs with Liam. They buy about twenty horses a time, look after them for six months, then sells them. Liam is amazing with horses. He can talk to them and he just clicks his fingers and they do whatever he says. That is a real talent. The horse business has gone really well and about three years ago they built a big set of stables two miles out of town. They have about fifty horses now and they also built a sanded arena, which is the biggest in our province I wouldn’t say our family is rich, but everyone works really hard and I don’t think we’d be short of a few quid if it came to it.

I get on great with all of my brothers and sisters and I don’t have a favourite, but Mairead and I get on especially well because our ages are so close. We used to go out to discos together and hang around in the same group of friends when we were growing up. Mairead is one of my best friends, she’s great.

Because I was the youngest. I suppose I was always a bit more spoilt than the others. All my brothers looked out for me. They’d say, ‘Leave him alone, he’s got big brothers,’ which was great because I was always small for my age. You wouldn’t believe how small I was – I was a real midget – and everyone used to call me shorty. We also used to have two German Shepherd dogs when I was growing up. They were called King and Kaiser. We still have Kaiser and we’ve got another one now called Oscar.

The first girl I kissed was Fran Kerirans. She was a wee blonde girl and I’ll never forget it. I was only seven, but our two families used to go to the horse shows together all the time. Fran was my first girlfriend and we used to hold hands. Put our arms around each other and stuff like that. There we were in our little jodhpurs, it was mad and just kiddies’ thing. I’m still friends with Fran and her family. My next girlfriend was Orla Kilroy and I had my first proper kiss. I was only ten at the time. I met Orla through Irish dancing. My sister Mairead wasn’t really into horseriding, but she was a brilliant dancer and she won all the Ireland Championships and came 24th in the world one year. She won just about all there is to win at Irish dancing and I would go to the dance competitions to watch. My mum would say to me. ‘You don’t want to go to the dancing, Shane, go horse riding, you’ll have more fun.’ And I would say, ‘Oh no, it’s OK, mum, I don’t mind.’ The reason I wanted to go was because I met loads of girls at the shows. I would go with a couple of mates and all the girls would look gorgeous with their hair done up. We’d act like cool little men and be disappearing round the back with the girls, but not in a bad way. I liked being around girls, when I was younger and I always liked to have a girlfriend, but I didn’t have mad serious relationship. The girls used to think I was a funny little fella and they would ask Mairead, ‘Where’s your brother?’ Those Irish dancing shows were great fun.

When I was about fifteen, I went out with a girl who was in Grease when I was Kenickie. We went out together for just over a year, but broke up three times in total. She broke it off for a day, then we got back together, and then I broke it off for a few days. The two of us broke it off the third time because it was just not working out. I had bought her a Valentine’s card around that time, but I never sent it. I still see her around Sligo and we get on well. My head was wrecked after we broke up and I waited for a couple of months before I went out with anyone else. Then I started really enjoying myself. I had been tied down for a year which was stupid at such a young age. I enjoyed being in a relationship, but, to be honest, I think it was a bit too young to be so serious. After that I went out with girls for just a few months here and there.

Everything has become harder for us with relationships since we’ve been in the band. It is difficult to keep in touch, especially when we are touring, but it is still possible to go out with girls, especially at home.


I have loved singing ever since I can remember. The first song I really got into was ‘Uptown Girl’ by Billy Joel, which my mum bought for me on tape. It was the first I ever owned and I played it all the time. I also loved ‘All Night Long’ by Lionel Richie. I was only four when those songs came out, but I knew all the words and was always singing along to them and watching the videos on Top of the Pops. Although I had a good voice, I was really shy and was afraid to get up and sing in front of people when I was young. My mum was always so proud of her kids and she used to encourage me to sing. Fair play to her because she gave me and all us kids confidence in ourselves. Thanks Mum for that. Whenever we had relatives over, all us kids would have to get up and do our bit. Mairead was a champion at Irish dancing, so she would have to get up and dance. Peter was a great boxer and was once ranked four in Ireland, so he would show off his trophies. We all had to do something and I would get up and sing for everyone.

My whole world changed when Michael Jackson brought out the Bad album when I was about eight or nine. He took over my life and from then on I wanted to be Michael Jackson. I watched his videos for hours and learned how to dance like him. I would push back the chairs in the room and learn his dance moves. I even taught myself to moonwalk. I had all the videos he ever made, every single and album. I was the biggest Michael Jackson fan in Sligo and I even had a shiny glove and hat like him. I would ring up the record shop to find out when he’s latest song was coming out, so I would be the first to get it in the town. All I dreamed of was being on stage and having screaming fans just like him. Even when I was at school I would daydream about being Michael Jackson, the most famous pop star in the world. I loved his music above everything for years, especially songs like ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and ‘Man In The Mirror’. For years I wanted to see him in concert and when I managed to get tickets for his History tour in July 1997, I was in the middle of the crowd only about 100 yards from him. He was amazing and, to me, it was like watching Elvis. I thought Michael Jackson was a god. His music has changed a lot since he started, but I still think he is a brilliant artist.

The first proper stage show I was in was grease at Hawkswell Theatre in Sligo when I was twelve. All the main parts were for adults or much older kids, so I nearly didn’t bother auditioning. I was also really afraid and didn’t believe I could sing that well. When you’re little you think millions of people are better than you and that everyone will laugh at you. My brother Finbarr gave me a hard time about being afraid and he said, ‘You’ve got a great voice, don’t hide it all your life, do something about it.’ I’m glad he was like that because it stirred me up and I went for the audition. There wasn’t really a role for someone as young as me, but the producer created a special part for me and a girl called Olwyn Morgan to sing a duet called ‘We Go Together’.

I couldn’t believe the reaction we got – it was amazing. I was only tiny and the stage seemed so huge. There were about 350 people in the audience and for a few minutes they were all looking at me and this girl. I have got that show on video and it’s so funny. I have got such a little voice and it was so high – I could sing some serious high notes back then – and I loved to dance. For a few minutes I thought I was Michael Jackson and I loved it. I came out for the encore and was dancing away. Everyone was clapping and it was like they were cheering for me. I felt so happy and it was at that moment I realised I wanted to be a performer. I’ll never forget after the show when my mum came over and picked me up and gave me a big hug. She was so proud. I felt so sad when that run of Grease was over, but it gave me confidence and after that I started to love the theatre.

When I was fourteen I went to my secondary school, Summerhill College, which was an all-boys school. Summerhill teamed up with the Ursuline College girls’ school every year to do musicals, and that’s when I got into singing and acting in a big way. I did Annie Get Your Gun, but had to play a girl. I was dressed up in a skirt and a bonnet, but there were other lads dressed as girls so we could see the funny side. After that, people started to recognise me as a singer and I got lead roles and I started doing shows at Hawkswell regularly as well. I was the Artful Dodger in Oliver at school and in a production at the theatre. I preferred singing to acting, but doing shows was the hobby I loved above everything. I used to worry about my height when I was a teenager, but I realised that when you’re on stage it doesn’t matter at all.

It is amazing what a big part the show Grease has played in my life. We did it at school when I was fifteen and I played Kenickie and Kian was Sonny. A couple of years later we did Grease again and I was Danny and Kian was Kenickie. I got to know Kian through the shows. He only lived about a mile from my house but we never really hung out together because I was a year ahead of him at school. We just did the shows and went off with our own group of friends. I also got to know Mark through the musicals.

I was a big Boyzone fan at school, but I always got laughed at because it wasn’t really cool to like them back then. I was knocked out by their style and success and I couldn’t believe a bunch or Irish lads could do that. The very first idea I had was with my friend Michael Garrett – we thought of starting a four piece group and call it SC4, after Summerhill College. Everyone was laughing at us for wanting to do that. I asked Kian if he was interested and he just laughed as well. He was really into heavy rock music back then and he just said, ‘A boy band? You’ve got to be joking!’

Michael and I got another two lads interested and fixed up to have a rehearsal, but they didn’t show up and that was the end of it. It was all talk at this stage and it never led to anything. To be honest, I didn’t really think anything would ever happen. I thought you had to be someone important in Dublin to stand a chance of getting into a pop group. Not just a normal lad from Sligo.


When I was about eight I loved watching Bruce Lee videos and got a fella called Danny in the video shop and he let me have all the films, even though I was too young. I’d watch them for hours and practice kicking like Bruce Lee around the house on cushions and just about anything that was at the right height – even my cousins and Mairead! By the time I started going to proper classes I already had a good technique and, even though I was tiny, I was better than the bigger guys. I became the King of the Spinning Kick in my club because I had the most accurate kick, but I’ve never really had a proper fight in my life, so I’ve never needed to use it seriously. I’m the type who talks my way out of a situation, but when I was younger I didn’t need it anyway because I had older brothers and everyone was scared to touch me.
Horses were a major part of my family and my childhood. All of us learned to ride when we were really young. I can remember being put in the saddle when I was only about six in the Tiny Tots class. The pony felt huge, but it was probably only small. I had a little riding hat on and all the gear and I even won a trophy. I started riding properly when I was nine, but gave it up for a few years, then went back to it. I worked with the horses every evening after school, and every weekend the whole family would go to shows all over Ireland and sometimes in England. They were massive days out for us and brilliant fun. If I ever have a family, I will encourage my children to be around horses. They are beautiful animals ad if you ever get to be afraid of them, it’s an awful sad thing.

I was a pretty good rider – not the best, but natural enough – and I won a lot of shows. My best moment was when I was picked to ride in the Kerry Gold Dublin Horse Show at the RDS Arena in Dublin, which is a massive show jumping event in Ireland. All my family had qualified for it over the years except me, so it was important I got in. I was twelve when I was picked, but I wasn’t allowed to ride because it would have been too dangerous – I was so small and my pony was too slight. I was really upset.

We called our horses after the restaurant, so their names all start with Carlton. We had a grey called Carlton Guy for about fifteen years. He was like the family’s pet pony and all of us learned to ride on him for about the first four years. His nickname was Jasper and if I could find him now I would buy him back. He would be about 23 now and the last I heard he was in Scotland, but he may even be dead. He was a brilliant pony. One of my other favourite was Carlton Flight. He was the last pony I had and I nicknamed him Condor. He was a gorgeous- looking brown pony, with wonderful features, and we still have him. Michael Keirns is the jockey who rides him now. He’s a genius and has won Best Jockey on him two years in a row at Under 14s and 15s. We bought Condor for only £500, but he is so good now he is worth a fortune. At one point I was going to follow Liam and work with horses full time when I left school. But I went to college instead and then the band came up and everything took off.
I used to like Gaelic football and soccer at school. When I was twelve, I played in goal while Liam took shots. He wasn’t shooting hard, so I said. ‘Hit it properly, will ya’ and then he really whacked it and I broke my wrist trying to stop the ball.

The only sport I felt passionate about – apart from horses – was rugby. I played at fly half and was in the Connaught team. When I was eighteen, I started taking it very seriously and had trials for the Irish team. I did well and got to the third stage, but then the band started getting more serious. I had to work out whether I wanted to make it in rugby, or try to make platinum records and sing for big crowds. During the trials, me and the guys were preparing for a show and I realised I might get injured and not be able to sing. The thought of that scared the hell out of me and I suddenly lost interest in rugby and forgot about it. If you are serious about anything, you’ve got to be totally committed. I realised that all I wanted was to hear my songs on the radio and that was when singing became my life

Source : Westloife