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Jillian Godsil became broke and famous by a series of random and connected actions. Once a successful businesswoman and aspiring writer, she was hit by the double whammy of divorce and recession. Accordingly she was left in possession of a rather large mortgage (in excess of €1,000,000) on a Georgian manor house worth less than half that amount. Her ex-husband returned to the UK and became bankrupt, effectively giving her and their two children the entire debt. She fought every way she could but she could not hold back the tide. In 2011, she made a video to sell the house which went viral. She received an offer of €500,000 but the banks refused the sale. In Irish law even had the bank accepted the offer, she and her two children would still have been held liable for the balance.
In 2012 things got worse. Her company failed and bailiffs were sent in but her story continued to travel around the world. This time, instead of online and viral, she went offline and traditional. Her story was featured on Irish, English, Belgian and American television broadcasters. Her claim to fame was to be featured on BBC2’s Newsnight. Still, it made not a blind bit of difference to her downwardly spiralling financial crisis. Asked why she kept talking, even as she was backed into a financial corner, she cited one reason; suicide. She believes she has been given a voice to keep talking about debt, what it feels like, how to live with and please God, how one day to conquer it. Ireland of 2011 witnessed two suicides every day. While not all were down to financially reasons, a significant proportion could be attributed to such a cause.
Jillian’s mantra is that she is not ashamed she failed financially. She worked bloody hard but life threw her a curve ball. In Ireland financial failure is viewed as a stigma, unlike other cultures which view it as a necessary path for any businessperson worth their salt. It is ironic that the quote ‘Fail once, fail better the second time’ is from none other than Irishman of letters, Samuel Beckett.
When people tell her that the banks cannot get blood from a stone, Jillian’s response is to say ‘Yes, but it is very hard being that stone’. Banks are very powerful institutions and can jump up and down on little people. It hurts. It hurts a lot. Likewise, having no income is very painful, especially when one was successful before. Surviving debt is a tough road. It is not easy. It is very hard to share the reality of the day to day choices that have to be made. Jillian began 2011 an ardent and keen volunteer in many areas. She ended it an accidental activist. But one important thing she learnt along the way. She is not afraid.
On the plus side, Jillian is now a full time writer. Poverty and writing are good bedfellows. Here is a collection of her blogs from 2012. Some of them are funny, some of them irate and some of them painful and sad. She started the year in good hope but that too was almost crushed along the way. Almost. She has learnt that even the toughest of times will pass. She had learnt she is not afraid.
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