Byline: Joanne Atkinson
IT'S an antidote to Angela's Ashes, says Irish millionaire Bill Cullen of his autobiographical rags-to-riches book It's A Long Way From Penny Apples.
The title refers to Cullen's mother's words when he told her he had just arranged a business loan of pounds 18m to take over Renault Ireland - 40 years after he started selling apples on his family's market stall at the age of five.
'Frank McCourt's book is a very depressing book about childhood,' says Cullen, 62. 'He said, 'Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood.'
'I disagree. I had a wonderful childhood in miserable conditions. We had no water, no electricity, not much money. I was one of 14 children, but we were happy.
'My mother was determined we would be happy, it's all about being positive.'
It is this positivity, an almost tangible energy, that radiates from Cullen as he speaks. He is a dynamic man, physically large, with thick dark hair and piercing eyes, a surprisingly quiet voice, but an undoubted presence.
He doesn't have to speak loudly.
A self-made man, from his roots in the inner city Dublin slums, Cullen is now the owner of Renault Ireland, which he built up over the past 17 years from a struggling business pounds 18m in debt to a company with a turnover of more than pounds 350m.
He was a new entry on the Sunday Times Irish Rich List this year with an estimated fortune of pounds 40m.
When he speaks, …