I interviewed Ronan recently about his childhood home in a suburb of Dublin. The son of a delivery man and a hairdresser, Ronan is the youngest of five. Very much the baby of the family, he was devastated when his mother, Marie, died from breast cancer in 1998 at just 51. The five Keating siblings founded the Marie Keating Foundation, a charity in her memory, their aim to raise awareness and knowledge of cancer. The four brothers work for the charity alongside their regular jobs and their sister, Linda takes on a full time role. Below, Ronan speaks warmly of his family life which was loving, if somewhat chaotic! (Boyzone release a new single Gave It All Away on 1st March and a new album, Brother on 8th March.) To buy Brother
“My childhood home, 87 Bayside Walk in Dublin 13, holds the fondest memories for me. I was born in 1977 and we moved there when I was one.
The house had been built in the Seventies and it was a regular three bed semi. Because there were five kids, my dad converted one of the bedrooms into two by building a partition. Ciaran and Gerard shared bunk beds on one side and Gary and I had bunks on the other. Linda had the box room and Mam and Dad were in the other bedroom. There are twelve years between Ciaran and me, five between Gary and me, so I was definitely the baby.
My dad was a delivery man and Mam was a hairdresser. In the summer holidays we’d go out in the morning and we wouldn’t see our parents all day. We were climbing trees, cycling our bikes and creating games. We’d come home for dinner and then we’d be gone again. Now it’s just not safe for kids to go out like that, which is sad.
We lived in a suburb of Dublin, out toward the coast. It was a fifteen minute train ride into the city centre. On Sundays we’d all ram into the car – I’d lie in the back window when I was tiny. We’d go for a drive to a place called Raheny and have Sunday dinner at the pub. Mum was from Raheny and Dad trained the local football team, so we knew the community.
With five kids in the house, Bayside Walk was full of energy – there was always an argument or a birthday party or something. There was often chaos. I remember one Christmas when Ciaran got a gun and started shooting the fairy off the top of the Christmas tree. Mam went nuts. There was a beautiful cherry blossom in the corner of the front garden that bloomed every spring. One time, Gary swung on it and it snapped. My mother nearly killed him!
I went to the local National catholic school. We were a catholic family, we went to mass every Sunday, were all christened and confirmed and took communion. My mam was incredibly religious and went to mass in the last year of her life nearly every day. She was ill for two and half years with breast cancer that moved to her spine and she died in 1998, when she was 51. It was horrible when she was diagnosed and now, all five of us are constantly fundraising for the Marie Keating Foundation. We do golf and black tie events and charity walks. Our message is education and awareness and we have three mobile units on the road in Ireland and four in the UK.
My mam was creative and liked redecorating. We’d come home from school and she’d be moving furniture. I remember the kitchen being red and white and the front room was cream and beige. The décor was typical late eighties – sponged wallpaper and stuff like that. My dad was quite handy and he put it up. I also remember him laying carpet in the hall.
We were working class and money was tight, but Mam and Dad always managed to put food on the table and clothes on our backs, though they were hand me downs – I wore Gary’s, he wore Linda’s! There was a lot of traditional Irish stews and coddles, and on Fridays there was fish only because of our religion.
When we were all in school, everyone had dinner round the table but, as my siblings got older and had jobs, then one by one they missed dinners. Before I knew it, Christmas dinner was just Mam and Dad and myself. It was incredibly sad and I remember my mother crying at the table.
In the late eighties, early nineties, unemployment was at an all time high in Ireland. Young people had no option but to emigrate and there was a big Irish contingent in New York, so my siblings all went there. Cieran was a mechanic and worked in a Porsche garage. Linda ran her own Italian restaurant. Gerard was a great runner and went to Iona College in New York on a scholarship. Gary went to Iona too. They all came back in dribs and drabs and now everyone’s in Ireland with their families.
Everyone in our house loved music and the radio and car stereo were always on. I inherited my brothers’ and sister’s record collections when they emigrated. So I had this vast collection of everything from Van Morrison, to U2 to Culture Club to The Alan Parsons Project – a total mixed bag.
From the age of nine or ten, I knew I wanted to have a shot at being a singer. At thirteen I was lead singer of my first band, Namaste – we were a school rock band doing Nirvana covers. At sixteen, I joined Boyzone. I saw the advert in the newspaper and went to the audition and met Louis Walsh. Shane and Keith knew each other and I’d met Stephen once or twice. My mam was a bit scared at the start, she thought I was joining a religious cult!
When I was thirteen we left Bayside Walk – my dad was a countryman and my mam loved the country, so we moved out to a place called Dunshaughlin where Mam opened a hair salon. I missed my friends and the city, but it was a good move and it made me more independent, setting me up for life in Boyzone.
I have driven down Bayside Walk a few times and once, I even contemplated buying the house back. It came on the market but someone else snapped it up and I missed my chance!”