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Music industry is just a horrid business that ripped me off for 30 years; MARGO O'DONNELL REVEALS NIGHTMARE OF ABUSE.

Byline: By NICOLA TALLANT

MILLIONAIRE crooner Daniel O'Donnell's sister has opened her heart to reveal how the music industry DESTROYED her.

Daniel's older sister Margo burst on to the scene as a 14-year-old and went on to outsell The Beatles in '70s Ireland.

Margo, 55, was Ireland's top Country Music star for more than 20 years and should have been set up for life after earning millions.

But instead Margo claims showbiz:

ROBBED her of her fortune.

Turned her to DRINK.

DENIED her the chance of marriage and a family, and

Left her ADDICTED to drugs to beat depression.

Margo says a promise she made to her father before he died would haunt her and tie her to singing country music until it nearly destroyed her.

"I have no nice story to tell," she says. "Instead I have to be honest and tell it like it was - a horrid business that raped me for 30 years.

"I wanted to become a nurse. I wanted to get married and to have three or four children. Instead I am on my own and taking each day at a time to cope with my past."

She became hooked on anti-depressants and pain-killers for 10 years to blur the grief of losing her father and being forced to take responsibility for her entire family as a young girl.

After intense counselling and a stint at rehab she recovered only to lose the one true love of her life to cancer - guitarist John Treacy.

She was then struck down with a rare blood disorder herself and to this day is crippled with severe fatigue.

Amazingly, despite an incredible career, she now lives in a modest bungalow in Monaghan and worries for her financial future.

Her simple childhood was was turned upside down in 1968 when, aged just 16, her father died suddenly.

The farm labourer had just called his daughter to his side and asked her to look after the family if anything should happen him.

The O'Donnell family, who had recently moved to a council cottage in Kincasslagh, Donegal, were left stunned and penniless when their healthy 49-year-old dad suddenly died.

"There were five of us children. My father had been an unskilled labourer, my mother a housewife so we had nothing," recalls Margo.

"At the time. I was singing in a band and we had had some success. I would ' earn 10 shillings every time we performed.

"I made a promise to him the day he died. When he asked me I never even thought deeply about it. I just never thought he was going to die. He was a massive man to me and he did everything. He was my " hero. I would have done anything for him."

Within a year of his death, the band's popularity had grown so much they were invited on the Late Late Show - a performance which was to seal her fate as a star.

"By the end of 1969, I was approached by my first manager, John McNally, who offered me a wage and who built up a company around me," she says.

"I was 17 and so naive. I had nobody with me to look after me. It was the money that really forced me to take the job. It was pounds 100 a week and that was a lot then and would mean I could look after the family and honour my father's promise. I started touring six or seven nights a week."

All her earnings were sent back to Julia who used them to feed and clothe Daniel, James, Kathleen and older brother John who worked in a shop.

Within two years she had her first number one single and her earnings increased to pounds 200 a week.

Margo never comprehended her fame despite being a huge star both here and in the UK - nor was she ever comfortable with it.

"In the early 70s I was just working so hard - doing 10 or 20 shows a week. Of course I didn't even know what royalties were back then and I certainly didn't get any. Whatever I earned from the shows was put back into a kitty for recordings and I just got my wage," she recalled.

In 1974 a car accident, which left her with severe head injuries, put her out of work for over 12 months.

During that time, she never received a penny despite the fact her records were out-selling the Beatles.

"It was a very hard time. And after it I really hit rock bottom. I was in an awful lot of pain and I wasn't getting great hope from the doctors.

"One day I thought I was doing OK but I didn't get a good report from the doctors. I was in a taxi going home and I asked the driver to drop me off at Ryan's Hotel. I went to the bar and I remembered someone once ordering a vodka and orange in a pub beside me - so I ordered one of them. It seemed to make the pain better.

"What people don't seem to understand is there are many different types of alcoholics. As long as drink affects your life you are an alcoholic - be that one drink or a thousand.

"I had a drink problem with two drinks. I could take them periodically but they caused me a problem."

Margo says her alcoholism which, accompanied by the medication she was on for her injuries, made her very maudlin and deeply depressed.

Once given the go ahead, she went back on the road despite suffering from severe depression.

To make matters worse, without her knowledge, her master tapes had been sold to a company in Belfast who were making a fortune releasing them.

"I was depressed and every time I went to a doctor I got more medication. In 1981 I was put on Ativan which was like a valium and I was on that until 1986. I can safely say that for those years my life is a complete blur," she recalls.

Towards the end of 1985, Margo went to see psychiatrist Dr Mary McInerny who listened to her problems and put her on a course of therapy.

"I owe my life to her. I told her how I was feeling and she didn't give me tablets. She talked me through it. I suppose I had been down since my father had died. I was terribly close to him - a real Daddy's girl. And because of this promise that I had made to him I was angry.

"I went to a rehab centre in Tipperary and they told me to write a letter to him. I was amazed by the amount of anger in it.

"I knew then I had to get rid of the anger and I managed to do that in there. I came out and was much better. I knew how to cope and knew I had to build my life from there. I needed to start over."

She says Daniel's career was left untouched by the same problems that blighted her own.

"Thankfully when Daniel left me he got in with a good crowd and he didn't see the rough end of the showbiz world. His dream was to sing and now he is huge here and in America.

"In a way, he learned from my mistakes and although he has given to the family and has been very good, there wasn't a name on every pound he made which was the case with me.

"I had to do it. When my father died we simply didn't have a penny. It was different for Daniel - it was a choice.

"I don't begrudge him that at all. I think Daniel is a really, really nice guy and of course he will always be my little brother.

There was a time I believed he would end up like me with nobody. So I was thrilled when he found Majella. When they started going out Daniel never told me. Majella told me quietly."

Margo says she never mixed in showbiz circles but did have a deep relationship with her guitarist John Treacy.

To this day, she carries his photograph and laments how he was taken just as she hoped the new decade of the 1990s would bring her I happiness.

"John was a fabulous person. He died from cancer. I loved him truly and deeply. He was the love of my life," she says.

And the 1990s were to bring even more pain. As Margo launched a court battle to win back her master tapes, she found her health deteriorating.

In 1994 she was forced to stop touring after becoming ill.

Doctors initially thought she had leukaemia but later diagnosed a rare blood disorder called Dyscrasia. She settled down in Monaghan and continues to attend hospital regularly for checks on her blood and suffers from severe fatigue.

In 2002 when she won her court case, a judge said that her tapes should have always belonged to her but she had no way of going after the millions that had been lost in royalties.

"Financially, I have lost millions by being used by people in the business. It is a horrible business and I would hope anyone thinking of going into it would hear my story," she says.

"I am not bitter but I just live each day at a time now and try to help other people out as best I can.

"The drink never bothers me. Once I got rid of worrying about the family and the guilt of the promise I made I have been able to get on with my life."

Margo's story will be told on A Little Bit Country on Friday, April 7 on RTE One at 7.30pm.

CAPTION(S):

Margo and Daniel' Country and Western singer Margo O'Donnell' Margo with Dolly Parton' Margo with younger sister Kathleen and brother John' Baby Margo gets a bath on the front step' Margo with her hit records
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2006
Words:1667
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