Why mum Caroline keeps on DIGG-ing away at success
For those of you in any doubt about the differences between a cow and a bull - two of our most well known and common farm animals here in Ulster - I’d recommend you do a quick search online for the explanation offered by adorable Tyrone boys, Pearse and Darragh O’Neill.
Social media users were in floods of laughter last week as a video was posted of these two young bright sparks regaling us with tales of their ‘cow shifting’ adventures - with four-year-old Darragh pointing out to his older brother why said animal was most definitely a female, and not the non-ring sporting male that Pearse believed had been responsible for trying to eat the little flowers he had planted in the field. It depicted innocence in its purest form; the joy of a rural childhood for kids like these, with not a handheld or electronic device in sight.
The video is just one which has brought laughter and delight to the public, and their antics have been viewed approximately 1.5 million times on social media. “The boys love farming, and you can see that coming through in their talk,” says proud mum Caroline, 37, who’s taken half an hour to chat to me after finally getting her fun-loving lads, as well as her seven-month-old baby daughter Tess, to bed.
The fifth member of the O’Neill family, Gerard, has worked in a farming capacity all his life; as does his father Nishi O’Neill. In fact, Caroline was 13-years-old when Gerard came to do some work around her father Robert’s business - and so given both her and his rural backgrounds and upbringing, it comes as no surprise when she says that from they were babies, Darragh and Pearse, who is five, have been running about in wellies and boiler suits. “They don’t own an iPad, or anything like that at all,” reveals the busy mum-of-three, who formerly ran DIGG Childrenswear in Dungannon. “They will maybe pick up my phone and watch videos on it if they’re sitting around, but the rest of the time they are outside in the sandpit or wherever; I send them out to play because that’s what we did. “Yes, there’s a time and a place for looking at stuff online, but as a rule, they don’t use any devices, and that has stood them in good stead, and they are so sociable, and find it so easy to chat away.”
Caroline herself is one of six siblings and absolutely relished the country way of life that she was exposed to as a youngster. “I had a really rural upbringing; I’ve been in wellies since I was a baby,” she smiles.
“I have five brothers and no sisters, so I was like the sixth brother. I had to make tea for the workmen and the farm men, help with the silage, and all of that. I had to shift cows even when I was at (St Patrick’s) Academy in my uniform. My dad would even have lifted me off the school bus at times, much to my embarrassment, in the tractor.” Caroline’s father Robbie, who owns RJ McCann and Sons in Dungannon, has been both an inspiration and an encouragement to her all her life. She named her first business, DIGG Childrenswear, after him, as a nod to the fact that he was a digger driver, and has carried the DIGG brand throughout her entrepreneurial career ever since, including her current venture, DIGG for Success, which she formed to help other entrepreneurs use the tools of social media to improve and accelerate their businesses.
“People ask me to mentor them on how to make the best use of social media,” she explains about this project, which she started four years ago. “I actually studied Occupational Therapy at (UU) Jordanstown after I left school,” she reveals. However, Caroline had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak in her - something she inherited from her father.
“I decided to go into retail, and it was definitely his encouragement and his backing that enabled me to do that,” she says. And so passionate is the Tyrone woman about helping others to use the power of social media to best advance their own businesses, that last year she co-founded the Northern Ireland Social Media Awards along with her partner in that venture, Niamh Taylor. “People can have such negative things to say about social media, but everything I’ve even done with it has been so positive.
“It’s an amazing tool if it’s used properly, and I just have a passion for helping people to make use of that. Things are likely to get pretty rough for some businesses, so we all need to try to make the best of what we have.”
Follow Caroline’s blog on Instagram @diggforsuccess and @nisocial.