Lancashire woman Jackie M’Cartney has had a varied and colourful career from working in television production and alongside many celebrities to teaching abroad. She tells AASMA DAY how she has finally achieved her dream of working with animals by opening her own dog grooming salon and how all the skills she learned along her journey are proving to be a boon.
Spending time on her grandmother’s smallholding sparked off Jackie M’Cartney’s love for all creatures great and small.
Jackie recalls: “My nanna would take in any waif and stray that needed a home including Benny the donkey who was too small for the donkey derby and my beloved Prince the Labrador who had been abandoned in a telephone box.
“Across time, there were goats, pigs, hamsters, hens and lots more dogs. I absolutely loved my time there and would often sleep in the barn with the animals.”
Jackie, 48, who now lives in Whittle-le-Woods, near Chorley, grew up in Manchester and her dad was a trucker while her mum worked in a butcher’s shop.
Jackie says: “My parents had a strong work ethic and believed strongly in education.
“We knew all about strike action and there would be weeks where was had nothing but beans on toast to eat.
“I absolutely adored animals and had been looking to work with dogs such as for the RSPCA or Guide Dogs For The Blind. But because of the encouragement towards academic studies, I put my love for animals on the back burner.”
Jackie studied communication studies and law at Bournemouth University but after graduating at the age of 21, she had no idea what she wanted to do.
She explains: “I knew I wanted to work with animals but I wasn’t sufficiently trained. Then one day, I saw an advert for teaching English as a foreign language in Greece.
“I saw the advert on the Wednesday, had the interview on the Friday and on the Monday, I was in a Greek classroom facing 36 five-year-olds. They couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Greek.
“I was certainly thrown in at the deep end but we had a lot of fun. There was a lot of acting out, drawing on the blackboard and demonstrating of words.
“I was in Corinth and some of the children had never encountered an English person before. Then I rolled up with my peroxide blonde crimped hair!
“They learned about cultural differences as well as the English language. I was there for nine months and, with time, they learned more English and I learned more Greek.”
Laughing, Jackie adds: “There is a section of the Corinth community who will be speaking English with a strong Mancunian accent!”
While Jackie was out there, she did a lot of island hopping around Greece and also went to Egypt.
She met her husband Mike in Manchester when she was 16 and he was 20 and they have now been together for 33 years. While Jackie was working abroad, they still saw each other regularly.
Jackie says: “Mike and I still saw each other every month and kept in touch. And this was in the days before Skype and texting.
“I think if it’s meant to be, distance is no object.
“Mike is a phenomenal man and just intrigues me. He works in IT and is very different to me. He is very logical while I am very creative.
“I am an extrovert and he is an introvert ... but somehow it works.”
After returning to the UK Jackie began working behind the scenes on props for the library theatre and volunteered for local dog shelters.
She also sent her CV out to television production companies as the thought of travel appealed to her.
Jackie says: “I also started doing any community work I could and became involved with the Salvation Army.
“They were going over to Sarajevo which was at war at the time as they heard people were struggling.
“I went with them but when we go there, they would not let us in at the border. I was outraged and got in touch with the BBC and Granada and told them we weren’t going to budge.
“I set up a bit of a media camp and Jack Straw, who was Home Secretary at the time, ended up getting involved.
“In the end, we managed to gain access and get supplies to the people who needed them.”
When Jackie returned home from her adventure, Granada Reports called her and asked her to come in for a chat. Jackie recalls: “I turned up in my scruffs and ended up being sent to make up and then interviewed by Lucy Meacock.
“By chance, someone I had sent my CV to had seen me on TV with the Salvation Army and decided to give me a job. It was quite an unusual way to get into television!”
Jackie ended up working for an independent television company and, after being commissioned to work on a BBC documentary, she ended up working at the BBC.
She started as a producer assistant, then a co-ordinator and went on to become a researcher, then assistant producer and went into directing and worked for other independent companies.
Jackie has plenty of entertaining stories from her time at the BBC - including from her first week there.
Chuckling, she recalls: “A bloke walked past who I recognised and I asked him how we knew each other.
“He said he didn’t recognise me but I told him I was convinced he worked at the local Kwik Save or had been part of the Sale Boys’ School gang who met up with us girls or that I’d snogged him at the Alty ice rink before I’d met Mike.
“I was utterly convinced I knew him from one of these places but in between bouts of laughter, he said I was mistaken.
“It was only when he left the room that my producer informed me I’d probably recognised him from his music videos. It was George Michael!”
Jackie travelled extensively to places including the USA, Europe, Israel and the Caribbean and worked with a wide cross-section of society.
She worked on documentaries on gang members, loan sharks, terminally ill people and on Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds and extremist Abu Hamza.
Jackie never let working with famous people faze her. She recounts: “Robbie Williams once turned up late for an interview and I didn’t go ahead with it until he apologised.
“On another occasion, we were working on a documentary with the Duke of Westminster who was head of the Territorial Army.
“We were building an assault course and he was just standing around so I told him to get a spade and get stuck in. And bless him, he did it with a massive smile on his face.
“I don’t get over-awed by who people are. At the end of the day, everyone has got a job to do and it doesn’t matter how rich or famous you are, you have to do the best you can.”
Jackie worked in television for about 12 years until she was in her 30s. Smiling, she remembers: “Mother Nature came out of nowhere and all of a sudden, I had to have children.
“We decided if we were going to have children, I wouldn’t be able to do the travelling any more.
“I knew I would hate being desk-bound, so thought it would be better to quit television and do something completely different.”
Jackie studied professional floristry and ran floristry business ‘Jack’s Cutz’ from home.
Jackie, who has Georgia, 14 and Joe, 13, also worked part-time at a boutique florists in Cheshire and helped with Victoria Beckham’s 21st birthday bouquet from David and delivered it to their home. Throughout all this time, Jackie carried on helping out at dog’s charities and also helped at a children’s club which led to her returning to college to study teaching.
Within two years of qualifying at Runshaw College, where she ended up teaching, she won the University of Central Lancashire’s Golden Roses Lecturer of the Year Award.
Jackie says: “My students described me as ‘wacky, unpredictable and someone who always made learning fun’!”
Jackie led a BA course in community and social care at Runshaw College and did this for eight years.
However, two years ago, she decided the time had come to fulfil her dream of working with animals. Jackie says: “I thought ‘time is bobbing on. It’s now or never.’”
Jackie quit teaching and did her City and Guilds at Look North in professional dog grooming in Yorkshire. She was trained by founder members of the Groom Team England.
Jackie began dog grooming in Chorley and then, just before Christmas, she spotted a dog grooming shop for sale in Lostock Hall and bought it.
She opened “Jack’s Petopia” mid-January and is ecstatic at finally fulfilling her dream.
Jackie says: “Whenever I groom a dog, I always thank the owner because I have such a good time doing it.
“It is fantastic to see the dogs revitalised and spring back to life.
“I learned so many skills through all of my different jobs and they are all coming in useful now.
“Dogs cannot talk so the onus is on human beings to try to understand them in other ways. It is a bit like me trying to reach an understanding with the school children in Greece.”
Jackie has had a full and varied life, but has had her challenges. She says: “My dad took his own life about 15 years ago, I battled depression in my 20s and I have had health problems.
“But despite all this, I think life is about love, laughter and learning.
“You have to embrace life as you don’t know what is around the corner so you have to fill each day with as much awesomeness as you can.”
• Jack’s Petopia is on Hope Terrace, Lostock Hall, near Preston. Call the shop on: 01772 626466.”