Irish Examiner article on Mary FitzGerald, Saturday 26th September 2020

Arts and crafts with the woman who taught us when we were kids: Mary Fitzgerald 

Mary’s make and do show ‘How Do You Do’ has been making a welcome comeback on the RTÉ Player

Mary Fitzgerald in the National Gallery. Photograph Moya Nolan

Mary Fitzgerald:  Her much-loved arts and crafts programmes can now be seen on the RTE Player. Picture: Moya Nolan

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2020 – 09:30 AM


Who remembers turning the house upside-down to find the list of glue and glitter, pipe-cleaners and googly eyes Mary Fitzgerald told us we’d need for that day’s creation?

Inevitably, in our house anyway, we’d give up the hunt and watch her cut, stick and paint, mesmerized by the seemingly magical creations she’d come up with in those precious 15 minutes between arriving home from school and starting the homework.

An entire generation was raised on painted bottles, dolls-house furniture and paper aliens on her show How Do You Do which featured on RTÉ each weekday in the late 80s and early 90s. 

Now, thanks to a social media campaign to get the iconic arts and crafts show back onto our screens during Covid, Mary Fitzgerald’s one-woman make and do show has been making a comeback via the RTÉ player, entertaining the children of those children she captivated for years. So just why is the 30-year-old show so popular, and to what does Mary attribute her creativity?

“When I was a child, I loved making things. My mum would buy me make and do books from Woolworths in Kilkenny where I’m from, and I’d make doll houses, puppets, birthday cards, anything really. Later, I trained as a primary school teacher and went on to teach profoundly deaf children at St Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in Cabra. It was around this time that I spotted an ad in the paper from RTÉ looking for researchers for education programmes, so I applied.

“My CV sat in a pile for two years,” she remembers. “Then, out of the blue, I got a letter about a new Saturday morning show called Anything Goes. I remember I was teaching the children at my school about a creepy-crawly caterpillar that turns into a butterfly and I’d made up a song, I still remember it. So off I went in my massive paper caterpillar with a hat on my head and sang the song for them. It is the first and last time I ever sang in public.” 

 The show, a huge hit with the Irish public, went on to run for six years, with the first hour dedicated to the under 10s. “Many of the stories and adventures I made up were actually based on Trudy Mary, my brother’s imaginary friend,” laughs Mary. “I just loved it. When RTÉ asked me if I wanted my own show I didn’t hesitate. Essentially I was doing as an adult exactly what I loved doing as a child.” 

And so the show, How Do You Do (which became fondly known as Mary’s Make and Do) took flight. It aired for 15-20 minutes during The Den and was among the highest-rated shows for the station. (It was only narrowly beaten to the top spot by The Simpsons, explains Mary proudly.)

“Initially, I came up with all the ideas. I’d go out and get the cornflake boxes, buy the arts material and do the crafts at home myself, starting with each step, a quarter made, half made, until it was complete…here’s one I made earlier! But eventually, I got a small store room to keep things in and my team slowly grew.”

Before long, Mary became a household name and subsequently, one of Ireland’s most recognised celebrities.

“We didn’t have email or social media back then, so the only indication that the show was successful were the sack-loads of entries to competitions that would arrive into Montrose.

“Once we ran a paint-a-witch competition for Halloween and there were so many entries that we decided to stick them up on every corridor in RTÉ. I mean, there wasn’t a space on the wall in that place that wasn’t filled with some scary-looking witch. Another time, we had done a bright clown costume segment, and I got a letter from one school in Cork with a picture of the entire school and teachers standing in the yard, every single one of them wearing the clown costume they’d watched me make the previous week!

Later, the instruction leaflets that the show released also proved a huge hit, and Mary went on to put together a How do You Do book for kids —  an instant bestseller. 

it doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect or if you don’t follow the instructions perfectly, it is about having a go, trying things out, seeing where that takes you.

So what exactly made the show so special?

“The thing was that it wasn’t too long,” explains Mary modestly. “The kids would come in and throw their schoolbags into the hall and unwind before homework. There were also only RTÉ One and Two for the most part, so a lot of the Irish population had little else to watch. We also varied the crafts widely; we made dolls furniture, kites, tie-dye t-shirts. In fact, my daughter had no real interest in my work at the time, but only recently phoned me up to ask me about making tie-dye t-shirts during Covid restrictions!

It is amazing the satisfaction children get from making something out of nothing. Art can help them develop their creative skills. A lot gets handed to children on a plate these days and they don’t have to use their imaginations as much. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect or if you don’t follow the instructions perfectly, it is about having a go, trying things out, seeing where that takes you.” 

Life has taken Mary on few interesting twists of her own. After seven years on the show, she went on to work as the PR for Irish Horse Racing Ireland. Admittedly, a jump from making paper-mache lanterns. 

“My family was into racing,” Mary points out. “It was an extension of that hobby really. Then I took a side road and trained to be a barrister in my 50s and practiced for a few years.” 

Today, she has her own business, Mary Fitzgerald PR where she mainly looks after corporate and consumer clients.

Mary believes that the inclination we all had to create during lockdown was what prompted one of her former fans to petition RTÉ to rerun her shows on the Player. 

“When lockdown came, a guy in Limerick, a lecturer I believe, had watched my show as child. He started a twitter campaign to bring back the shows to help keep kids busy during lockdown. That’s why the tapes were taken out of the archives. We finally have new technology to put them out on the airwaves again. They are going to put more out for Halloween and Christmas but unfortunately a lot of the tapes were wiped, which is a terrible thing when you think about it. Programmes then were recorded on film, which was very expensive. But of the ones that have been aired, I’ve had a very good reaction.

“I mean, if you look at Mary Berry, she had her cooking programmes years ago and has now made a brilliant comeback. I’d love to go back and do something creative again, but the only way to find out would be to do maybe 8-10 programmes and put them out and see what people thought.” 

So if RTÉ called you up and asked you to come back, would you really?

“In principle, I would, yes. I enjoyed it so much. I’d obviously look for more help, but I loved it. If they thought there was the appetite out there, and it was good to get children’s heads out of their phones for 15 minutes a day, then of course, I’d be happy to do it!” 

Read More

5 things kids of today might not know about The Den

Presenter Mary Fitzgerald on the set of 'How Do You Do' in 1989.

Devils’ Halloween Outfit 

What you need: 

Garden stick, stapler, belt, glue, thin cardboard, thick elastic, sticky tape, tin foil, rope or thick string, red card.

  • Step One: For the devil’s ears, place a dinner plate on red card. Draw around it to make a circle and cut it out.
  • Step Two: Cut the circle in half. Fold each half into a cone and fasten with a stapler or sticky tape. Make a small hole at either side of each cone with a scissors. Thread a piece of elastic to fit around your head, through the holes and tie.
  • Step Three: For the tail, fold one end of the rope into a small loop and fasten with sticky tape. Draw an arrowhead on red card, cut out and stick to the other end of the rope. To wear the tail, put a belt through the loop and fasten around your waist.
  • Step Four: Now draw a three-pronged fork on cardboard and cut it out. Use sticky tape to attach it to the garden stick.
  • Step Five: Tear strips of tin foil and wrap around the stick and fork until completely covered.
  • Wear red or black clothes when dressing up as a devil.

Painted bottles 

What you need: 

Empty bottles and jars, e.g. jam jars, wine bottles, sauce jars, poster paint and soap or powder paint, gloss paint, paintbrushes, glue, scissors, glitter, newspaper 

  • Step One: Clean and wash empty bottles. Paint them all over on the outside using poster or powder paint mixed with soap or gloss paint. You can also paint the bottles on the inside by swirling paint inside the bottle using household gloss paint. Leave bottles to dry. Do not decorate until completely dry.
  • Step Two: You can leave the bottles plain or paint a funny face on it. Why not decorate the top of the jar with a bow or add other symbols like flowers.
  • Step Three: With an empty sauce bottle, paint it all over and let it dry. Paint a strawberry on it or tie a ribbon and bow. Maybe write a message or paint someone’s name on it and gift it to them with a flower stuck inside.
  • Step Four: You can also dab on blobs here and there with a brush, or add squiggles. To add glitter to a bottle, sprinkle a little on newspaper, cover the painted bottle with glue and roll it on the glitter in the newspaper. Shake off excess glitter and leave to dry.

All these bottles can be used for holding pens and pencils or flowers.

LIFE Mary Fitzgerald: The kids would stand around the piano and ‘feel’ the music Before wielding pipe cleaners, egg cartons and empty toilet rolls on classic RTE children’s series How Do You Do? in the 1980s, Mary Fitzgerald taught deaf youngsters — but she soon found she had to be creative during conversation. Interview by Larissa Nolan Sunday June 28 2020, The Sunday Times

I started out life as a primary school teacher and my first job was at Loreto College in Dublin’s Foxrock. I was only about 20 — so young that most of the parents thought I was someone from the senior school. I taught children arts and crafts. Back then, there wasn’t much credence given to learning to be creative and use your imagination, but now people see the great value in it.

I then answered an advertisement to work for St Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in Cabra. I went along, did the interview, and got accepted. They tried me out for a while — had a look at me to see if I was suitable to be trained up — then sent me to University College Dublin to study as a teacher for the deaf.

I knew nothing about deaf children, nor had I ever known or met a person who was deaf or hard of hearing. What appealed to me was the challenge. It was such a complete change.

The average class size in Dublin primary schools at the time was 30 to 40 children, but at St Mary’s I had just six or seven. It meant that I could give them hands-on care and they had my full attention. At that time the method was to teach deaf children to lip-read and use their voices. We didn’t teach sign language: the focus was on helping them to live in the hearing world. That focus has since changed, with the deaf community saying that signing is their natural first language.

In the class, we sat at a big horseshoe-shaped desk, all of us plugged into the same system, with hearing aids, and I had a microphone. The set-up would have been very suitable for social distancing: all the children were about two metres apart and the classrooms were big and airy, with plenty of room and good spaces between people.

The children were very proficient at lip-reading. If another teacher came in to see if I was going for a drink after work, or for a quick coffee, we would have to turn our backs to talk or else they would know what we were saying. When the Prince of Wales married Diana in 1981 and the wedding was shown on TV, they were all able to tell me what the royal family had been saying on the balcony. They were great for gossip — they knew exactly what was happening in school, and to whom.

We would do reading, writing and maths: the ultimate aim was that they would go on to college and the same career roles as hearing students. The biggest difference between teaching hearing and non-hearing children was that you would go into a classroom and it would be silent. There’s always a level of chat in classrooms, but in a deaf class, it is the silence you notice first of all. You are usually encouraging children to keep quiet — in a deaf classroom you’re telling them to talk.

I remember all my students. One of them, Olive, was in a car accident when she was two years old, and lost her hearing as a result. She qualified as a chartered accountant. I was thrilled at that news.

Fitzgerald on the set of children’s craft show How Do You Do in 1990


Music was a challenge. It is difficult to teach it to deaf children. I worked with a music teacher and we would bring them into a hall, play a song on the piano, and they would all stand around it and feel the music. It was learning music through vibrations; the different vibrations came up their arms and would give them an idea of what the notes were.

I only taught them one song in the whole year and that was a long process — a huge achievement. They had to learn the words and put a sound to it. The song I taught them was The Creepy Crawly Caterpillar.

When RTE offered me an audition for a slot on youth programme Anything Goes, I said I could do arts-and-crafts slots and stories. One of the tasks was to sing a song for under-10s, and illustrate it. It was a no-brainer for me. I had been doing The Creepy Crawly Caterpillar for a year and had made a huge green caterpillar in the classroom, as well as hats for all the kids. I replicated that for RTE and I got the job.

I tried over the years to get children’s programming in RTE to include deaf kids. When I moved on to my own show, How Do You Do? [the children’s make-and-do series appeared on the channel during the late 1980s and early 1990s and some episodes are currently being re-run on RTE Player], I managed to adapt some of it for deaf children. We did drama and mime and subtitled the programme. They were the first — and possibly only — children’s programmes made specifically for deaf children by RTE.

How Do You Do? is on RTE Player

How did she do that? Life turns into one big reinvention for Mary

Former RTE star Mary Fitzgerald is bringing nostalgia back to our screens with the return of her iconic children’s show How Do You Do- a return for a broadcaster who has been the queen of reinvention in her own life.

She’s back: Now you can relive the magic of making any number of wonderful things from papier-mache and pipe cleaners with children’s TV icon Mary Fitzgerald with 30-year-old episodes of ‘How Do You Do’ on the RTE Player. Photo: Mark Condren

She became one of the nation’s best-loved children’s presenters on How Do You Do – and now episodes are available on the RTE Player after a more than 30-year hiatus. This is allowing a new generation to discover the joys of papier-mache and pipe cleaners.

The Kilkenny presenter hasn’t been idle since leaving the small screen as she switched gears into PR to bring Ladies Day to Irish racing, before training as a barrister in her 50s.

Back in the 1980s she achieved popstar levels of fame when she went from being a primary school teacher for deaf children to fronting Anything Goes, one of the highest rated programmes on television.

“It had huge ratings. It was two-channel land. We were like popstars then, I hate to say that, it sounds a bit egotistical, but we led the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

“I remember going to a restaurant in Dingle and the restaurant couldn’t serve people because so many people were queuing outside the door because they knew I was inside. It was mad.”

It was a baptism of fire for the young teacher who had sent a letter to Montrose offering her services if the station decided to go for educational TV.

“I got no training. I rocked up to RTE, I’d one rehearsal on a Saturday evening and the following week I was live on television I didn’t know which cameras I was supposed to look at.

“And there was no autocue. You had to learn all your lines.”

During the heydays of the 1980s, the former teacher would regularly have the likes of U2 and Thin Lizzy coming into the studio to film live slots on Anything Goes.

“We met them all – Boy George, Toyah Wilcox, Bono, they all came in.

“Bono and those were beginning to take off and they would come in and be very polite and get their photo taken with you, but they had managers with them. They were sort of wheeled in and out.”

Phil Lynott stands out in her memory.

“I was quite a nervous presenter and he gave me great confidence, saying ‘keep doing it and you’ll get better every week’.

“He was brilliant, someone like him at the time who was a big star to take time to talk to me, I was a 22-year-old, I just remember him being very encouraging. Boy George was another person who was great fun.”

Roald Dahl wrote her a letter. He was impressed when she asked him about the little-known fact that he had written a Bond movie script. “He sent me a lovely letter which I still have.”

She is delighted to see a new generation of children learning how to get to grips with homemade kites and sock puppets.

“When Anything Goes ended, I got my own series How Do You Do which is now back on the RTE Player.

“I brought out two books. That year was 1990 and Gay Byrne’s autobiography was the No. 1 bestselling book and I was No. 2.”

Her penchant for arts and crafts on screen grew out of her brief teaching career.

She said: “I wrote into RTE and said if you’re ever doing educational type programmes, I’d love to be considered as a researcher.

“Out of the blue I got a letter to audition for Anything Goes.”

After more than a decade of children’s shows, she landed her dream show, but Ireland’s astounding run in Eurovision in the 1990s essentially put the death knell on that show being renewed for a second season.

“My real interest was in fine art and antiques and I did a show called Treasure Ireland.

“It was kind of like an Antique Roadshow-cum-Bargain Hunt, but Ireland kept winning the Eurovision during those years, so any money went into staging the Eurovision.

“So, as they say What’s Another Year for Johnny Logan and What’s Another Career where I’m concerned.

“I was dying to do adult programmes but because in a way I got typecast as a young people’s presenter, I felt it was time to do something different.”

Her next reinvention couldn’t have been further away from her children’s TV shows as she decided to answer an ad for a job as a PR manager for the Irish Horse Racing Authority which is now known as Horse Racing Ireland

“My job was to get more people to go racing as then it was very much a male-orientated sport.

“At that time, I was actually the person who brought in – whether it’s a good or bad thing at this stage – the Best Dressed Lady competitions.

“Now there is best dressed men, best dressed children, best dressed family. I love fashion and style.”

After six years, when the Horse Racing Authority moved to Kildare, she decided to change careers again to accommodate raising her young daughter, Caroline, in Dublin

“Following on from that I set up my own PR and event company which I’m still running.”

But in the meantime, there was a stop-off at law school to become a barrister.

“I was in my 50s, I actually wasn’t the oldest in the class, there were people in their 60s and 70s and one guy even in his 80s, but the majority were 25 upwards.

“I just have one daughter, Caroline, and my daughter grew up and I just felt I wasn’t going to just sit at home and be one of those ladies who lunches.

“I appeared in the District Court right up to the Supreme Court, doing mainly commercial and civil law.

“I loved it but it’s hard to make a living because when you’re starting later in life, it just takes time to build up a practice.”

She also runs a Horses for Courses course which gives people a complete A to Z on the horseracing industry along with her PR and events company.

And she is still recognised all the time by a whole generation who grew up watching her brand of old-fashioned, wholesome fun.

“The children who used to watch me are now adults.

“On nights out, say in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, especially around Christmas, people send over drinks saying thanks for making my childhood a special place or that they have fond memories.”

‘How Do You Do’ is now available on the RTE Player.

Article written by Lynne Kelleher and published in the Sunday Independent, 14 June 2020

Carl Mullan & Donncha O’Callaghan go head to head in crafting challenge

Bored in the house and you’re in the house bored? Well, get ready to be inspired because it’s Arts and Crafts Week on RTÉ Player, and with that comes a brand new series of videos from ‘Craft Queen’ Mary Fitzgerald.

Many will remember Mary from How do you do?a children’s series that had kids across Ireland making everything from space ships to dolls’ houses using empty toilet rolls and egg cartons.

To celebrate the show landing on RTÉ Player, Mary will be challenging some grown-ups to compete in ‘Get Crafty’ challenges. Today, Carl Mullan will be up against his rival, sporting legend, Donncha O’Callaghan as the two attempt to make kites over Zoom.

Want to play along at home? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A black sack
  • Some plastic shopping bags
  • 2 sticks of equal length (garden sticks or bamboo sticks – approximately 2 feet long)
  • Twine
  • Glue/Sellotape
  • Scissors

Here’s what to do:

  1. Begin by cutting the end off the closed side of the bin bag.
  2. Open up the bag and fold it in half (lengthways).
  3. Fold one corner across so that it meets the other side of the bag and cut off the triangle that this fold creates.
  4. Cut another triangle, this time from the bottom and working your way up to  where you first started cutting the first triangle.
  5. Open the bag up and you should be left with the rough shape of your kite. There’ll be 2 separate pieces that are exactly the same. You can take away one of them and use it to make a second kite later.
  6. Glue or sellotape your sticks to the back of the kite, leaving a wing at either side.
  7. Sellotape a piece of string to the back of each wing and tie them in the middle.
  8. Decorate the front as you please (use lightweight items like shopping bags or paper).
  9. Sellotape another piece of string approximately 2 feet long to the bottom of the kite to create your tail. Decorate with light plastic bows made from offcuts of your plastic bags.
  10. To attach the string to fly your kite, tie the loose end of a long ball of string/twine to the string attached to your wings.

How Do You Do? Returns to TV screens

Ahead of the return to TV this week of the iconic TV programme How Do You Do? with Mary FitzGerald, Mary joins Donnacha O’Callaghan the former rugby player and TV pundit & Carl Mullan for some make & do fun.

3 classic episodes are now on the RTE Player for the first time. Enjoy!

There 3 episodes are as follows

Snake Draught stopper made from old socks 

Mary FitzGerald demonstrates how to transform odd socks into a colourful snake draft stopper using bits and pieces from around the house.

Felt Puppets

Mary FitzGerald demonstrates how to make simple and colourful puppets with the help of her special puppet friends Francis and Schillaci, using felt, ping pong balls, egg cartons, cardboard and other bits and pieces from around the house.

Papier-mâché fruit and veg 

Mary FitzGerald demonstrates how to make papier-mâché fruit and vegetables using old newspapers, coloured paper, wall paper paste, paints and balloons.

‘Make and Do’ – How to make and use a face covering

From Monday, Ireland will slowly begin to waken from its slumber, and things will start to look a little different.

The Government has advised that from 18 May people should wear cloth face coverings, in certain places, like in shops and on public transport.

Mary FitzGerald explains how to make your own face mask for RTÉ News.

“The materials you need are two plain pieces of cotton, you can use a t-shirt or a pillow case. You need two pieces of elastic to go around your ears around 15 centimetres long, a needle and thread and a scissors,” says TV ‘Make and Do’ legend Mary Fitzgerald.

Mary will be a familiar face to many, from RTÉ’s ‘How Do You Do?’ in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Mary Fitzgerald pictured hosting How Do You Do? (Pic: RTÉ Stills Library)

Following the guidelines from Government, Ms Fitzgerald talked us through how to make your own face coverings at home, in “six simple steps”.

“It takes about half an hour when you’re doing it from start to finish at home, but the stages are very simple,” she says. 

“The first thing you do is keep your two pieces of cotton together. Fold them over about 6mm on the long sides.”

“Then you get your needle and thread, and very carefully do a hemming stitch all along that line.”

Once you’ve done that, she says the next step is to fold in the shorter sides by about 2cm.  

The next stage is to get your elastic and thread it through the short sides. 

“A tip is to get your elastic and thread it through with a safety pin. The last stage is to scrunch it all up together and tie a knot”.

This can then be tidied up by pushing the knot back inside the material, to hide the elastic. 

“It’s a very simple face covering to make for yourself at home. I would advise people to make a couple of them. If you have an old pillow case you could make at least six of them,” she says. 

Ms Fitzgerald says that when people are watching television or having a quiet moment, they could take some time to make these homemade face coverings.

“Horses for Courses” Spring 2022

Due to the success of “Horses for Courses”, this unique Adult Education evening course on horse racing returns for Spring 2022. Further details and dates to follow shortly. It will be similar in style and content to previous horse racing courses as outlined below.

Email; or call 086-2520181.

Course Description

Learn everything there is to know about horseracing including Breeders, Trainers, Owners, Jockeys, Racegoers, Betting, Race Course Management, Role of Horse Racing Ireland, Role of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Racing Media, Sponsorship and much more!

Lecturers include celebrated National Hunt and Flat Jockeys and Trainers as well as Brian Kavanagh, CEO, Horse Racing Ireland, Denis Egan, CEO, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Keith Rowe, Director R.A.C.E., Charles O’Neill, CEO, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, Leo Powell, Editor, The Irish Field, Pat Keogh, Manager, Curragh Racecourse, Robert Hall, RTE TV Racing Commentator and many more!

General Admission = €155.00. Vat and admin fees extra.

It includes;

  1. Six weeks of lectures 
  2. A FREE day at the races
  3. A trip to the Irish National Stud  and Horse Museum
  4. Weekly draws for great racing spot prizes

People who attended the last course had this to say;

Many thanks for an excellent course that far exceeded my expectations. Thank you for organising it and for getting such an inspirational group of speakers to address us.”

 “Big thank you for a very professional and fun run course”

 “Learned so much about horses and breeding. Enjoyed it very much, there is something for everyone in this course”

 “Very enjoyable course, very informative, really enjoyed the jockeys and trainers talks”

“Brilliant Course, really enjoyed it, great insight into the Irish Racing scene”

Review of this Course in The Irish Field.

Don’t miss out. Book now! Places book up fast!

Further information contact: Mary FitzGerald
Course Director, “Horses for Courses”
T: 01-678 7916 
E: or

Return of Mary FitzGerald’s iconic art and craft TV programmes to RTE Player

Mary FitzGerald’s iconic art and craft TV programmes, “How do you do?” originally broadcast to children in the 80’s and 90’s are to return to the RTE Player on Monday 25th May 2020 to entertain both parents and children in these unprecedented times”.

As parents and their children are now at home daily, Mary will introduce a new generation of children to the joys of art and craft to keep them busy and entertained in these coronavirus times. See for further details.

A DVD of 12 of the best “How do you do?” art and craft programmes is also available to purchase in the shop for €10.