Nigel Owens Got A Lot Of Love For His Appearance On The Tommy Tiernan Show

Nigel Owens Got A Lot Of Love For His Appearance On The Tommy Tiernan Show

Prior to sitting down with Nigel Owens in an RTÉ studio, Tommy Tiernan didn't know much about him beyond that he is a rugby referee and gay. That had changed by the conclusion of their 12-minute conversation.

Owens told Tiernan what it was like growing up gay in rural Wales.

"You go to Sunday school, you go to school, you leave school, you get a girlfriend, you get married, you become parents, you become grandparents and that's what I thought the world was about until I started realising that I was different," said Owens.

It was a very difficult time because I was becoming somebody that I didn't know anything about, becoming somebody that I didn't want to be.

You're going back to the late 80s now where - it was was very different to what it is now - I'd never met a gay person at 19 years of age. The only people you could relate to when people mentioned the word gay were some of the very camp characters on the only sitcoms back in the 70s and 80s. I was sitting there thinking to myself, 'I'm not like that, that can't be me, I can't be gay'.

Owens told of how he fell deep into a deep depression which eventually led to a suicide attempt.

"It was a very difficult time and it put me in a very dark place where I was depressed and suffered from mental health issues for years. I was quite a bit overweight at the time and suffered from bulimia where I would make myself ill and make myself sick pretty much after every meal I'd eat for the next five or six years.

"I still suffer from that today but not to the same extent that I did back then. I lost a lot of weight through the bulimia and suffering from mental health issues and the depression of becoming who I didn't want to be."


I started going to the gym to make myself look better and I got hooked on steroids. By the time I was 26 years of age, I did something that I will regret for the rest of my life - something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life - where I left a note for my mom and dad and said that I couldn't carry on my life any more.

When I left the house that morning and left the note, they got up and read that note - didn't know why - but probably read that and thought they were never going to see their only child again. That's something I've got to live with for the rest of my life and something that I will never forgive myself for - what I put them through.

Owens was airlifted to hospital and spent a few days in intensive care. A doctor told him that if emergency services had taken another 20 minutes to reach him, they would not have been able to save him.

After everyone else had left his hospital room, Owens said that his mother told him, "If you ever do anything like that again, then you take me and your dad with you because we don't want to carry on our lives without you".

She left and I just cried like a baby, at 26 years of age, for hours. I sat up in bed and I said, 'I need to grow up here. I need to accept who I am'. That's the moment my life was saved really.

The 46-year-old said that the pressure he felt refereeing the 2015 Rugby World Cup final - one of the biggest moments of his officiating career - was nothing compared to the challenge of accepting who he was.


He also explained how he came out to his parents and other family members.

It was very difficult. I texted them all. My mom is the only person I sat down face-to-face with and told. The disappointing thing is that a quite a few of them came back and said, 'We guessed'. I was distraught.

There was plenty of admiration for the Welshman speaking so openly about the troubles through which he has lived.



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PJ Browne
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