On Friday it will be January 6th – the feast of the Epiphany, or in the Spanish world Dia de Los Reyes marking the visit of the Three Wise Men to the stable in Bethlehem. Mmmm, I will resist making the obvious witty aside about the improbability of not one, not two but three wise men together, but how ridiculous is it that Mary gave birth in the company of lots of men? Joseph, shepherds and kings? Not woman in sight. Like as if? Perhaps the wise men were originally wise women – although if they were, they definitely would have brought better and more useful gifts.

Here in Ireland, the 6th of January is Nollaig na mBan. A day to celebrate what we women contribute to our loved ones over the festive period. A day when traditionally women would get together, for tea and cake and probably a bit of a gossip!

2011 has brought me many opportunities and has generally been quite a good year. As I looked back I realised that, for me, it was the year of wise women! I am very lucky to have always managed to surround myself with brilliant women, from my mother through to my great girlfriends. These women are without exception clever, funny and intelligent but more than anything they are hugely supportive. These are the friends who have stood shoulder to shoulder with me as life threw flowers and sometimes tomatoes my way. They are there to celebrate successes and pick me up when I fall down!

But in 2011 I seem to have added significantly to my harem of fabulous women. These new Wise Women of 2011 have brought me one precious gift – that of self confidence. Having been at home with young children for ten years, I had the title of Housewife indelibly inked on my forehead and on my psyche. There were numerous occasions when I had to remember that I had designated 2011 as my year of fearless living. Regularly I had to fight to silence the voice in my head which constantly asked me “what the hell do you think you are doing? You’re not a writer. You are not a radio contributor. You are a deluded housewife.” I hear that voice less and less, thanks to some fantastic women who I am going to name check now!

The very first person to take a chance on me was East Coast Radio‘s Morning Show producer Claire Darmody who got me to come into studio to shoot the breeze on various news topics with presenter Declan Meehan; himself a source of encouragement and regular dispenser of sage advice.

Vanessa O Loughlin of Inkwell Writers and is someone that anyone who is interested in writing should check out. She offers great courses, runs the best writing resource website and is an amazing motivator. She’ll happily and charmingly deliver a kick in the ass to move you on when necessary but never fails to applaud your efforts when you do get writing.

Last but most of all I want to thank the FANTASTIC WOMEN ON AIR COMMITTEE. Let me single out three of said committee for particular mention.

Helen McCormack who also risked me on the Tom McGurk programme on 4FM and who a year ago gave me a regular slot on the (then) Gareth O Callaghan Saturday programme which ran for four months and was a wonderful experience.

Eleanor Fitzsimons befriended me when I knew absolutely no one and has since become a great pal and colleague.

And of course the mighty impressive Margaret E Ward, who terrified me until I met her and realised that she was actually a pussy cat and in true American fashion, a total ‘Can Do’ person. She was saying “yes, we can” way before a certain Mr Obama, I am sure of it.

These Wise Women of 2011 are all professional, busy people. But they all have open minds and a generosity of spirit which allowed me to benefit from their experience and wisdom. They also never failed to cheer me on as I took my tentative steps into the media.

As we head towards the beautiful of Nollaig na mBan I want to publicly salute these amazing women. Mile buíochas dhaoibh go léir.

I recently stumbled across a lovely blog called Sanctuary of Women run by a woman called Jan Richardson in Florida. She wrote this beautiful poem and has graciously allowed me to reproduce it here. I humbly offer it to you my Wise Women of 2011.


Wise women also came.
The fire burned
in their wombs
long before they saw
the flaming star
in the sky.
They walked in shadows,
trusting the path
would open
under the light of the moon.

Wise women also came,
seeking no directions,
no permission
from any king.
They came
by their own authority,
their own desire,
their own longing.
They came in quiet,
spreading no rumors,
sparking no fears
to lead
to innocents’ slaughter,
to their sister Rachel’s
inconsolable lamentations.

Wise women also came,
and they brought
useful gifts:
water for labor’s washing,
fire for warm illumination,
a blanket for swaddling.

Wise women also came,
at least three of them,
holding Mary in the labor,
crying out with her
in the birth pangs,
breathing ancient blessings
into her ear.

Wise women also came,
and they went,
as wise women always do,
home a different way.

Published by


Writing and Talking.... on the radio, on the telly and in the papers. Debut book out in Spring 2022

24 thoughts on “THE WISE WOMEN OF 2011”

  1. Lovely post, Barbara, and what a fantastic year you've had. I salute you as one of those wise women and may your 2012 be as wise and wonderful as the one just gone. x

  2. Barbara – fantastic – you're not only wise but totally inspirational!

    Hope 2012 is another exceptional year for you. x

    Norah B

  3. Loved the blog, Barbara, what generosity of spirit shines through from everyone including yourself. The poem is so beautiful. A lovely and inspirational start to the New Year.

  4. Well you know what I think of you…As Carole says 'the wisest of them all !' – loved the line 'made a casserole !' – great blog, fág an bealach – Nollaig na mBan.

  5. Dear lovely Barbara I cannot tell you how much of a privilege and delight it is to be included in your list. If it wasn’t for the fact that 2012 is MY year of thinking positively I’d say I wasn’t worthy. Your friendship and that of the rest of the fabulous WOA has been a source of such joy and fulfilment to me. I admire you and all you have achieved hugely. I also believe that in 2012 and beyond you’ll surpass yourself as they say round these parts. Here’s to a magnificent 2012. Onwards and upwards!

  6. Barbara you are one of the truly wise women, there is no question (I'm still laughing at the opening passage!) A gifted writer and communicator you have 100% made your own luck through talent and hard work – those around you just help to grease the wheels (and kick the proverbial ass occasionally!) Thank you so much for the mention; it's all about synergy, strength through connections. I hope 2012 is ready for you! As Eleanor says, you will surpass yourself – onwards and upwards! Go Team! xx

  7. Ah, Barbara ~ what a lovely post.

    I love women and the help and support women provide each other. As Madeline Albright said, 'There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.' Perhaps because the default position of most women is to be wonderful and supportive.

    Please remember that you're just as inspirational and supportive and kind and giving and wise as the women you name-checked in this post.

    Nollaig na mBan is a wonderful way to celebrate that – and I love the fact that Irish women had a Day of the Woman long before International Women's Day was declared! Wise women, indeed.



  8. Thanks to you and to Jan for that lovely poem. I'm still grinning from the poster at the top of your post especially as Mr A was driving yesterday, didn't ask directions, got us hopelessly lost, wouldn't stop and yes, we were late! Men!

  9. Barbara, a wonderful blog post as per usual – so generous in your acknowledgement and praise of others. Most of what I want to say has already been said by others. In short, whether through the written or spoken word, you are a gifted and inspirational communicator. Congratulations on all you achieved in 2011. I am certain it is just the tip of the iceberg. Wishing you every success in 2012 and beyond. Your star is rising 🙂

  10. Barbara,
    Delighted to hear some positives about 2011 and that the year was good to you. Having read your recent pieces in the Irish Times I believe you relate to a wide audience which I am sure will grow in 2012. As I explore new possibilities I know that having true women friends is one of the greatest priviledges a girl can have. Best of luck in 2012. Carmel K.

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