logo Burngreave Messenger Issue 31 - May 2003

The Interview

Donnie and Carol McFarland have been together for 12 years. Donnie was born in Stirling, Scotland and has worked all over the country as a steel erector. Carol was raised in Barnsley and was a lecturer at Sheffield College when they met. As a new couple they wanted an opportunity to be together in a place with a house and a job and in 1994 they took over The Rock public house. They plan to retire in August and move to France. They each have three children from previous relationships.

What is your idea of happiness?
Carol: A curry and a long lie in. Seriously, it would be to think that our families are healthy and happy. As a human being it would be a better world – peace.
Donnie: I’d agree with that, but the family definitely.

What is your greatest fear?
D: Something happening to one of us. It wouldn’t be financial or anything like that. It would be something happening to us as family.
What do you dislike about yourself?
C: I’m bossy and I like my own way.
D: I’m critical, I judge people against me. Not strangers, those close to me. I criticise people because they do not do things as I would. I know I shouldn’t but I do.

What makes you sad?
D: The telly – Black Beauty on the telly – if she breaks a leg. Seriously all sorts of things, cruelty, what’s happening in the world today.
C: The news at the moment. We are very emotional and political people.

What is your earliest Memory?
D: I don’t think I’ve got an early memory. I’ve not got a clue what age I’d be, my Dad had come back from the war and he was unstable. My Mum had a nervous breakdown and we were getting to the stage that the family was going to be taken into a home. I knew my Gran was visiting my mum and the hospital was eight miles away, I remember walking the eight miles to tell my Gran that there was someone coming to take us away. I remember getting packed off and going to live with my Gran.
C: I remember being lost on Blackpool beach.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
C: Well, Donnie is mine.
D: When you go into a relationship second time round – it’s totally different. There are no kids involved – we’re just absorbed in each other.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
C: Actually.
D: Get your drinks off. Please.

What is your greatest regret?
D: I never did better at school; or rather I never went to school. I was a clever kid at primary school. Then we were bussed to high school and that was it for me. I never went, I stopped working and my education suffered.
C: I’m similar. First time around the only future you see for yourself is getting married and having kids. There was an accident at work. I was union rep. and appalled at what had been allowed to happen. I was forced out of my job and went back into education.

How do you relax?
C: That’s one of the things about working in a pub, you can’t relax unless you go away.
D: The second we get on that ferry or that plane we relax.

If you could change one thing about Burngreave, what would it be?
C: I would change the way it’s perceived by the rest of Sheffield. There are problems here but there are problems all over. I think the way people see it stems from racism. If we could change the way it’s perceived it would allow us to move on.
D: I’d change the council housing policy. I don’t think they put any thought into it at all. It doesn’t allow the area to develop as a normal community.

What keeps you awake at night?
D: Nothing – when I hit that pillow everything goes
C: Him – his snoring definitely does. He sleeps like a noisy innocent baby.

How would you like to be remembered?
D: For being fair and consistent.
C: That we give people respect.

What is your favourite place?
C: A little village called Pleurdut in Western Brittany, it’s like going back fifty years. It’s where we are going in August.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
C: I seem to have had a lot of lessons.
D: I think that if you really want something, within reason, you can get it. If you have the right attitude, with hard work and some drive. (In my case this was Carol) it is possible to achieve your goals.
C: In a nutshell there is nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it – you have to have faith in your own abilities.

Which living person do you most admire?
D: My mother – she’s in her 80s and still working – still driving – got done for speeding. She looks after the terminally ill. She calls them her ‘old ’uns’. The minute she stops it’ll be her end. She did 80 hours last week.
C: I find admiring people a difficult thing; I’ve never really had idols. I can respect people. Mo Mowlam – she taught me when I did European politics. She overcame adversity and went on to make peace in Ireland. Out of all the politicians she is unique.

Carol and Donnie McFarland talked to Steve Pool, 18th April 2003, The Rock. Photography by Richard Hanson.


Donnie and Carol McFarland.