Nuala Carey is one of Ireland’s best known TV personalities and is also a big star of the National Ploughing Championships. The weather and Lotto presenter has a wonderful zest for work, and life despite the death of her beloved father Maurice to pancreatic cancer back in 2018. RSVP had the pleasure of catching up with Nuala and her sprightly mother, Ann, to discuss the impact of losing the man of the house, how RTÉ was always the dream and why the farmers of Ireland have a soft spot for the golden weather girl.
Nuala, it was lovely to see yourself and your mother Ann enjoying the photoshoot so much, you have a great bond.
We do have a great bond, we have always been very close but since my dad Maurice passed away, we have become even closer again. We like spending time together, the shoot is lovely as it was a pamper day for us and it will be lovely to have those pictures because when someone dies in a house, things like pictures, they are so precious to have. Really, we are all making memories as we go.
I know this has been a sad year for you all but your mum seems like a lot of fun and she loves to chat.
She is a great chatter, I would always bring mom with me as my plus one to events as she would speak to anyone, and if I get pulled in one direction she is happy to chat away and is never offended that I have left her. At this point people expect her as my plus one and I think they would be disappointed if she wasn’t.
You have two sisters, Lynda and Brenda, but they stay out of the spotlight?
There are three girls in my family, I am the middle child and we are all very supportive of each other. If they think mom wants to be part of a photoshoot they are happy for her. The types of jobs they do wouldn’t be as front and centre as mine and that is what they like, so we all work in jobs that we enjoy.
Your dad Maurice died over a year ago and I know it has had a massive impact on you all?
Yes, dad died on Nov 18th 2018, he had pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed 16 months before he passed away. There were no major signs, that is the thing about pancreatic cancer. The survival rates are very low as it usually presents very late. The first sign anything was wrong was when mom noticed one Monday that his skin had developed a jaundice colour, she saw him in the morning and it was fine and later that afternoon, she said it to him, and that was the start of it. Since then, we have started doing a lot with pancreatic cancer charities and anything to raise awareness.
When did you find out the awful news?
Dad went to the GP immediately and he went for scans but it was about three to four weeks later we were told the news. I didn’t Google anything but many people in the family did and they were getting worried and concerned that it might be pancreatic cancer, but I told myself until we are told he has cancer, I won’t believe it. For those few weeks, I was in a state of fog because I felt he may not have cancer. The day he was told he had it, they said it hadn’t spread so we were relieved because we thought we were one of the lucky ones. But it was better it happened that way, because if we had been told on day one he was going to die, I don’t think we would have been able to handle it. So this worked better for our family.
Did you find the family pulled together when your dad got sick?
Yes, and we got closer as a family, even the day dad was diagnosed, we all met back in the family home. Everyone was there, all relieved as he was going to have treatment and tackle this head on and as time went on he had chemo and radiotherapy. He was in Vincent’s private for six months and we divided our time, we had lists of availability and we planned so someone was always with him. It was a balancing act for six months. We had great support and great neighbours, and my work was very accommodating. I never missed a day’s work over it but they understood what was going on. I felt we had great support.
You both spoke about Maurice a lot on the shoot - has it got easier with time?
It does get easier, the first few weeks you are in shock, but there is lots to be done and there is paperwork and calls and people calling but that passes. As time goes on you realise this is the new set of circumstances. While I accept he has passed away, it is very sad and hard to admit that he will never walk through the front door again. But we did everything, we have no regrets, we prayed we would get him into the hospice at the end and we did. We prayed that it would be gentle for him and peaceful at the end and that is what happened.
Were you with him when he died?
Yes, I wanted to be there and be with him at the very end, because I know he would never have left us on our own. I was with him at the end and that gave me peace also.
Do you live in the family home?
Yes, I do.
Are you a religious family?
We are not overly religious but there is a faith. My dad used to help out at the church doing the collections, so now we have a plaque on one of the seats in the church dedicated to him. So on Christmas Day we sat there. That is the only seat I will sit in at that church. I do like going into a church and lighting a candle and I firmly believe that all the things we asked for my father at the end happened because somebody above delivered for us. It could be more spirituality than religion.
I heard it was always your dream to work in RTÉ , even as a kid?
Yes, it was. I went to school in Muckross Park in Donnybrook so the bus to school every day went by RTÉ. In school I was very quiet and studious but I came out of myself in Transition Year. I got a week’s work experience in the Abbey Theatre and a week in RTÉ and I loved it. I met lovely people and everyone was so welcoming. I remember on the last day walking down the stairs in RTÉ saying to myself, I would love to work here.
You started your career in AA Roadwatch, tell us about that.
While I was in college I worked as a volunteer in a radio station, Anna Livia. I used to do the traffic and the news for them and then a job came up with AA Roadwatch, so I was perfectly poised for that and I got it. I worked on Radio 1 and 2FM and a year and a half later, RTÉ advertised looking for new faces for the weather. I applied, hundreds did, there was a screen test and interviews and eventually, I got the job. I was delighted!
How many years are you with RTÉ?
Nearly 15 years and I love it here, I have no intention of leaving. I love the job, I love the people. It was great it happened for me so quickly, I was lucky and a lot of things fell into place for me. I would also be good for seizing opportunities. I fill in for Maura Derrane on the Today Show if she is unavailable, and I can do that with very little notice. I will get myself on a train and I will go. I will always try to fit in everything and make it work.
Are you very career driven, does career always come first?
I would never turn down an opportunity. When something comes out of the blue it can often lead to something else. I filled in for Sinead Kennedy on Winning Streak and that was always a dream of mine. It is a very tricky programme to present as you are dealing with five members of the public who are new to television so your job is to mind them but you also have to keep the show on the road. I love a variety of things. I could have weather on Monday, Telly Bingo on Tuesday and from March, I will also be doing the Lotto draws every Wednesday and Saturday night. I will do Winning Streak if needed on a Saturday and I will happily fill in for Maura another day. I like it that way.
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Have you ever been asked to do Dancing With The Stars?
No, I haven’t officially been asked and everybody seems to think I have been, as I am always asked am I doing it. Now, I was part of a very big show from the same production company called Charity You’re A Star so I don’t know if that makes a difference.
Yes, that was big, are you a bit of a singer?
I don’t know about that. I always picked iconic songs so I felt the hair and make-up would do the rest for me if nothing else. I was the only woman who got as far as I did. The weird thing is – and I only realised this recently – the only footage we have of my dad is at that show. He was in the audience every night with my mother and sisters so I am so grateful I did that even just for the footage.
So you have no regrets about doing reality TV then?
I loved every second of it, I didn’t sleep a wink with the excitement. It was like a wedding in the house for two weeks. My parents loved it, the neighbours were so excited, there were kids writing to me from all over the country. It was just magic.
If you were asked to do Dancing With The Stars you would definitely do it then?
I would certainly consider it. I am not sure how I would fit it into the day job, so unless there was a compromise I could come to with work. You couldn’t work full-time and do the show, I know I couldn’t, but I love to watch it. I would consider it if the stars all aligned.
Can you dance?
I honestly don’t know. You can learn.
Are you in a relationship at the moment?
I won’t get into that, I don’t kiss and tell.
You have a lot of admirers, do you think it is a weather girl thing? I know you get flowers and cards and messages.
Yes, I do. We go to the Ploughing Championships every year and you end up meeting a lot of people in person also. But the people who follow me are the loveliest, they send me Christmas cards and they send me birthday cards. I am very lucky, I never got anything nasty.
Who are ‘they’ – are they men?
Yes, it would be men. Generally country men, farmers, I think I might be the farmers’ pinup or something. But very lovely men, I don’t get anything weird or sinister, just lovely complimentary and kind-hearted messages. Even when my dad passed away some donated money to the hospice where he died because they knew that is where he was. So my fans are just really kind.
Have any of them ever asked you out on a date, surely that is the goal with the cards?
I think it is more of a fantasy, as people see you on telly and they admire you but they don’t really know you. I am not sure they necessarily think anything is going to happen so no, I haven’t really been asked.
I suppose most farmers would be watching the weather every day, as it is in their interest?
They would be very loyal followers of ours. It’s funny because when I am outside of Dublin I get recognised even more than when I am in Dublin. Also, presenting the lottery, people might think I am lucky for them. They chat to me about what they would do if they won the money so between the Lotto and the weather there is plenty to chat about.
Are you ever worried about your job? There are a lot of changes in RTÉ, would this make you more aware of your job?
Look, I love my job and I will have no intentions of going anywhere and that is all I have to say on it really.
You are obviously not a worrier then?
I wouldn’t say I am a worrier but I am no fool. I thrash things out in my mind but I don’t worry like I used to. After dad died I realised that life is a journey, it will take twists and turns and you have to deal with it as it happens. But I will always put myself in a position to minimise my worries. Sometimes life just sorts itself, you don’t have to try to fix everything. I do believe that if something is meant to be, it will happen.
Do you hang out with the other weather girls?
We all work shifts, so it is very unusual to have us all in the room at the same time, but we do try to make an effort around Christmas and meet up for a bite to eat. It is lovely and we look forward to it. There is only ever two in the studio during the day.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love walking and I am trying to get back into running. I like spending time with friends. I am not very high maintenance, I like doing simple things like going for a coffee and catching up with people but other than that I love TV. I loved watching The Crown and now Dancing With The Stars. When you are on TV people may think you are more materialistic than you are, I am not like that at all. On my days off I just take it easy and have a nice, quiet time.
So you are not a party girl or out and about to be seen?
No, not really, all of that can be quite vacuous. If you work a proper job, you can’t have both. You can’t go partying and then get up the next day. If I have to go to something, I usually drive to it, I catch up with friends and it is perfect.
Your mum is from Mayo and your Dad is from Cork so do you feel like a country girl in the city?
I would be very in tune with my roots, I don’t feel like I am a Dublin person. I am very much of the country and that is what I like. I love spending time down the country. We spent our summers on the farms, I don’t feel like I am a real Dub.
What have the last number of years taught you?
If I have learnt anything recently, it’s that life is fragile and you can’t take anything for granted. You have to enjoy and grab happiness where you can.