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A Day in the Life: Donal Byrne


LAUNCH PAD Donal Byrne of the Big Red Barn Limited pictured with National Ploughing Association Director Anna May McHugh at the National Ploughing Championships. Ms McHugh launched The Big Red Barn’s modular homes at the Ploughing two years ago.

I would be up around 6am and be at the yard in Swinford for 6.30am. I live in Aghamore so the yard is 15 minutes or so away.
To use this morning (Thursday) as an example, I had three crews ready to go at 6.30am. One for the Big Red Barn for Achill GAA, one for the Big Red Barn in Kilconly in Galway for the Wild West Country Fest and one crew ready to bring a modular home with them.
At 8am the lads in manufacturing come in. They’d be steel fabricators and they work on making the modular homes and the barns. I would chat with them about what needs to be done most urgently.
The Big Red Barn is on the go for five years last February. I was in construction, self-employed before that. Then the downturn came and I ended up driving a milk truck. Around that time I was behind the West Fest music festival in Aghamore. We had The Coronas down.
Through that a fella we know said he was impressed with how West Fest was run and I got a job for the London Olympics. I was Operations Manager for the general area around Olympic Park. We were having day-to-day problems with marquees.
I decided when I came home I would design something more durable. So I came home and designed The Big Red Barn. I was on Dragon’s Den and it has been a great success.
There’s 22 people now working in Swinford and more to come.
We have three barns out at the minute which is a very busy weekend. We would only have the two storey barn out four or five times a year but the two regular barns are booked every weekend from now to October.
We started the modular homes two years ago. Lots of young people cannot get a mortgage. You might have an elderly couple then who find it too expensive to run their own home.
We’re shipping to Rhode Island in the USA in September. They saw it at the Ploughing.
They are very cheap to run, very warm and very easy to insulate. A lot of people don’t have the patience to wait for a big build. Ours are done in eight weeks. A standard build costs €120 per square foot to a builders’ finish, you’d have to furnish it yourself. Ours cost €63 per square foot and is fully furnished.
The Irish Government are not very welcoming at the moment so we are dealing with countries who are interested.
After talking to the lads in manufacturing, I hit for Kilconly. I will bring a load up myself and I will meet with the organiser, Paul Devaney. I went back to the yard then and had a conference call with the States.
I’ll go in then to Mary in the office and we will go and try to gather money owed to us. It is never a nice job to do.
After that I will have more staff to go to Achill and I’ll go to Kilconly with another load. I’ll take calls then on the way from customers and do more work in the office when I get back.
Fingers crossed I’ll be out the door at 6.30pm or 7pm. I’ll go home and we’ll have dinner. We’ll put the young buck to bed and then I’ll head up to the farm.
I have pedigree limousin and simental cattle. It’s a great hobby. You’re definitely not doing it to make money. I took it up two years ago. I love walking around the fields and switching off.
The young lad, Jack, might come with me if I’m home that bit earlier. He’s two and a half and he is obsessed with cattle!
My wife Marion is a teacher. The hours she has work well with Jack. I don’t know how we’d do it if we were both working with The Big Red Barn.
I’ll get the bit of farming done and I’ll be in bed no later than 10pm and then it will be the same story tomorrow.
We’re lucky enough we don’t work Saturdays from October to March. I was working here last Saturday as it is my turn, we take it in turns between four of us.
I try then to take Sundays off but when I had to price a job in Belmullet, I went on the Sunday, priced the job and we would go to the beach there, have a meal then in The Talbot on the way back. It’s very important to draw the line and not be gone all the time.
In the winter then a gang of us from work would do things like the Sea2Summit and Ballinrobe Duathlon. We put a huge emphasis on being one big family here.


Name: Donal Byrne
From: Aghamore
Age: 30
Occupation: Owner of Big Red Barn Limited

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Farm. I’d have pedigree cattle as far as the eye could see, red barn fences, a house in Spain and a private jet.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I swam to Clare Island with a group a few years ago. It was a brilliant thing to do.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Loads of strange stuff. Crocodile and snails probably the most unusual.

Where’s your favourite place in the world?
Mijas, in Spain. Where we go on holidays with the family every year, flying from Knock.

What makes you angry?
People who talk sh*te and don’t deliver. Negative people as well.

First hero?
Liam McHale would have been my first, then Ciarán McDonald.

Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Mayonnaise, ham and Corona!

What makes you nervous?
The fear the day after drink!

Favourite TV show?
The Big Bang Theory

Who’s the most famous person you’ve met?
Stephen Hawking when I was working at the London Olympics.

Best holiday?
After Mijas, it would have to be Crete with a gang of lads from home years ago.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
Not having financial stress.

What’s your most prized possession?
My pedigree cattle. One or two are top notch.

Best advice you ever got?
F*ck the begrudgers.
Describe yourself in three words?
Motivated, hard-working and stone-mad!

How do you unwind?
A few quiet pints every Friday evening in Tommy Ryan’s in Kiltimagh.