You need to let me spread my wings

Image: Rosanna DavisonRosanna Davison, 23, is the eldest daughter of Chris de Burgh. In 2003, at the age of 19 and while studying at Dublin University, she won Miss World. She still lives at home and is a model and aspiring TV presenter

Every little girl thinks, ‘ I want to marry my daddy’ without understanding about romantic love. When I was younger I felt no one could compare to you – I suppose they still can’t. But I know romantic love now and so, Dad, I feel it’s time to let me explore the world. It doesn’t mean I love you any less or don’t want to spend time with you. You’ve done so much for me. Sometimes it feels like I can’t give back what you’ve given me.

I was in awe of your spontaneity and fun. You organised special days out for us and surprises – like the time you packed us into the car, said we were going for a drive, and took us on a helicopter for the first time. I’ll never forget that helicopter ride. You were so much more than a father to me. I can remember you giving me a hug before I went to sleep. I never felt so safe and comfortable as I did in your arms.

You were also the rock star dad, and I always felt so special being the daughter of the guy that everyone was raving about. You inspired me. You’re so talented in the art of storytelling. I still don’t know to this day if Pablo, your friend from Argentina who we heard so many stories about, was fictional or not. You were always making up adventures about him and telling us stories over dinner.

At school, when I won prizes, it was always to please you. One year I won the high jump on sports day and got a big hug and kiss from you. I loved the warmth that would come out, the smile you gave, the animation in your eyes. Sometimes, though, your affection could be claustrophobic. I know you give us lots of hugs and kisses because of the lack of physical affection you had when you were little, but I sometimes felt it was too much; that maybe it should be reserved for special times like saying goodnight, rather than if I just happened to be standing by the fridge.

You know I was never really rebellious – it wasn’t as if I was drinking or smoking – but I did get embarrassed that I didn’t have the same freedom as my friends. Do you remember when I was 14 and had a 16- year- old boyfriend, and you and Mum always insisted that when he came to the house I had a girlfriend there, like a chaperone? Yes, there were days I’d get a bit annoyed and hide in the garden next door, where I’d sit for hours pretending I’d run away, or I’d threaten to ring the children’s helpline and complain about what was happening.

I’ve had boyfriends for the last five years – have you noticed how I always choose guys who have close families? That attracts me – so it’s not that you’re the only close male in my life. But when I imagine leaving home and settling down, the thought of leaving someone who has done so much for me makes me feel guilty. I enjoy living here, but I like the fact I can drive off too. Sometimes, if I say I’m going away for the weekend or on holiday, you’ll say, ‘ I’ll miss you’, and that intensifies the guilt. Then mum tells you to stop.

As a child and teenager you do live your life through your parents, but I’ve done that now and moved on. And going off to China for Miss World was a remarkable turning point for me, you and the whole family. You need to let me leave and trust me to make the right choices. If I want to go travelling for a year, don’t make me feel bad for going away. I can’t be in the house forever. Dad, I love you so much. You were my first love, but now I have to spread my wings. Chris de Burgh will be touring the UK in November. Visit www. ticketmaster. co. uk for details.

Letting you go is the hardest thing

Image: Chris de BurghMusician Chris de Burgh is a loving father – but painfully possessive, says his daughter Rosanna Davison, a former Miss World. Will he ever cope with her growing up?
Chris de Burgh, 59, was born in Argentina and lives in County Wexford, Ireland, with his wife, Diane, and their children, Rosanna, Hubie and Michael. He is most famous for his 1986 hit The Lady In Red

None of us have been to a school for bringing up children. There’s no manual. We have to do it from intuition and the heart. We’re also reflections of our own childhoods. I was sent to boarding school and didn’t see much of my mother and father. There were no cuddles, no hugs. I swore I’d never let that happen with you, Rosanna. Even now, if I pass you in the hallway at home, I have to kiss you. I remember when you were my little girl and hugged me goodnight, your love would strike me with the force of a train.

You’re gorgeous with a beautiful smile and, when I look at you, I don’t know where the years have gone. Of course, it’s hard accepting my little girl’s grown up. I know that one day soon you will have to fly, but letting you go is the hardest thing I’ve ever known – having you at all was a miracle. Before you, your mother had several miscarriages and then, almost fatally, she had an ectopic pregnancy. We were told that the chance of her becoming pregnant was five per cent. People think having a baby is like ordering a taxi. We knew it wasn’t – even talking about it now makes me emotional. I remember walking hand in hand in the park with your mother and seeing couples with babies. I think the ache was even harder for her. So can you imagine, Rosie, the beauty of having not just any daughter, but you?

I remember when you were 11 weeks old and your mother brought you out to Toronto where I was on tour. I blagged my way into the arrivals lounge, looked into the cot and saw this tiny thing, your face beaming at me. There can be no love stronger than that. If anything, we might have been a little bit obsessive, perhaps too careful. But when you have a treasure that’s so special, it’s hard not to be. As first- time parents it’s hard learning when to allow your child to push back the boundaries and when to get tough. You were also so independent. I think one of the first things you ever said was, ‘ Zanna do self!’ I recall when you were a teenager and we told you that you couldn’t go to a particular party, you said, ‘ I don’t do permission.’

But you weren’t a difficult child. You always tried so hard to do well. I never meant to push you. I just wanted you to do your best. I’d say, ‘ See that mountain over there? Don’t ask yourself what’s at the top of the mountain, ask what’s on the other side.’

And you always did. When you won things like the high jump, I felt such tremendous pride. I remember when you came rushing over and we all leapt up and down as if Liverpool had scored in the Champions League final. But my happiness at these successes was also measured by sharing your sadness when things didn’t go right – like when you were in the 100- metre hurdle final for Ireland and came second or third. You really wanted to win, but didn’t catch the stride. I felt dreadful for you. I gave you a hug and dabbed away a tear.

Love’s such a weird thing. I was so proud when you went off to China for the Miss World competition, but I’ll never forget that day in London when we saw you off and you went through security with a little wave. That was one of the hardest things. I recorded Here For You the next day with that line – ‘ And now a plane must take away my child that life has found’ – and all I saw was that scene. Rosie, I never want you to feel guilty about wanting to leave home. You owe us nothing. And, when you’re ready – I don’t think you are quite yet – but when you are, go with my full love. Your room will always be here for you. I’ll always be here for you. There’s a part of you that’s always my little girl.

© Daily Mail Weekend magazine 2007