Mrs Andrews' line is tops with the brides
TV Times
17 November 1984
TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article
related page...

Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

Mrs Andrews' line is tops with the brides

By David James Smith

Picture Ron MacFarlane

There has not been a wedding in the Andrews' household for 33 years. Eamonn and Grainne were married on 7 November 1951, and things have been pretty quiet ever since.

Nevertheless, an unmistakable air of matrimony has invaded the family's Dublin home. A bridal gown here, a headdress there. A scattering of fine fabrics and soft flowers. A trayful of beads and bows. It's all extremely disconcerting for their children, Emma, Feargal and Niamh – 22, 19 and 16 respectively – for it's nothing to do with them. But it's fun for Grainne, who is not the first or last woman to devote herself to the children, then turn to a new enterprise when motherhood is no longer a full-time occupation, especially when Eamonn is away – as he is on Wednesday – springing yet more surprises in This Is Your Life.

Grainne has ventured into the wedding business. Reviving old skills with a needle and thread, and applying a flair for the ornate and the elegant, she is specialising in handmade headdresses for the bride who wants a romantic, fairytale wedding.

Business began in earnest just over a year ago. 'My original idea was to make wedding dresses and ball gowns. Then I went out to buy a headdress to match a gown I'd made. I eventually found one, but it was terribly expensive, and the choice seemed very limited. I brought it home, sat down and had a good look at it, and decided I would have a go at making them myself.'

Her work has graced the covers of Irish magazines, and been sold through top Dublin stores. But Grainne's biggest coup came with the sale of a collection to Harrods in London. 'I was in the bridal department there when they mounted one of my headdresses. It was a marvellous moment.'

Grainne was born into a family of theatrical costumiers, PJ Bourke's of Dublin, as old as this century and still thriving in the city, it still employs a clutch of Grainne's relatives. She worked there, too, before her marriage, and, naturally enough, made her own wedding gown in the workrooms, with a helping hand from an aunt. 'I made my own headdress, too, probably because I couldn't find the one I wanted.'

In 1951, Eamonn was presenting What's My Line? on television in England. 'He was already the local boy made good,' says Grainne. Inevitably, his marriage, to the daughter of a well-known family, was quite an occasion for Dublin.

'I remember coming out of the house with Daddy to go to the church. Everyone else had gone, and I was very hurt that none of the neighbours had come out to wave me off. When we got to the church there they all were, of course. There was an astonishing number of sightseers – but they were for Eamonn, nothing to do with me.'

In those days Grainne would have been a poor publicist for the wedding industry. It all seemed very daunting. 'I could never imagine staying faithful to one man. I couldn't believe I'd be married to the same person for 30 years. I remember thinking that the most difficult thing about marriage must be giving up your freedom. But here I am...'

In the event, she succumbed willingly enough. Only later, when the children were getting older, was there time for outside interests.

'There was always something to do here before. Now the children are still living with us, but doing their own thing. They don't need their little mama anymore... except occasionally.'

Is this a distressing reminder that Grainne herself is growing older? 'No - it's had exactly the reverse effect. Most friends of our age have grandchildren. Of course, it was lovely, when Niamh was a little girl to float around town with her, and she was my little girl. But she's a woman now.'

While the children are no longer so demanding, Eamonn's working life takes him to and fro from Dublin to London. When Eamonn is in London, Grainne is invariably in Dublin, at work on headdresses.

'He's never gone for very long. I think it's great to have some kind of breathing space. He won't mind me saying that because he knows I feel it's good for both of us. I wouldn't want to get in his hair while he's working, anyway. But we know each other well enough for all that. It works.'

Ask Grainne what career she might have taken up, and the reply is self-mocking, but not bitter. 'I'd be a good charwoman or barwoman. I always say to Eamonn that if times are hard I know how to serve a drink and I know how to clean.'

In fact, the headdresses reveal a considerable talent for design. No two are the same, and the styles are many and varied, employing pearls, beads, flowers and ribbons, invariably on a frame of fuse wire. 'I usually have a design in mind, and once I'm inspired I just sit down and do them. They're quite quick.'

They are selling well, but Grainne has no wish to expand the business. 'I took Eamonn out to lunch the other day. And that's the extent of my ambitions. The occasional lunch for my hungry husband.'