IT is frequently claimed that a day out of Killarney is a day wasted and it is no exaggeration to say that there is no place like home.
But, for many, living is the town is not currently possible, be it for economic reasons, lifestyle choices or more personal circumstances.
In this insightful three-part series for KillarneyToday.com, reporter Conor O’Riordan speaks with a number of local people living abroad to find out what they most miss about their home place
Sweden now Norman’s home
THE more familiar options of Australia, Britain or America didn’t appeal to Norman Geaney who likes to shake it up a bit.
He has been living in Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, for 14 years and, though he may not get to return to Killarney as often as he likes, he still has fond memories of his hometown.
Norman hails from Woodlawn Road and attended St Oliver’s National School and Killarney Community College. He finished college in 1996 and moved to Dublin where he met a Swedish girl named Kristina. They lived in the capital until 2000 when they decided to move to Stockholm.
“Even though Kristina was not eager to move back home, I always loved to travel and I travelled a lot with my work. I was sick of the rain too and I always liked the idea of living abroad,” says Norman who loves his life in Sweden but admits that he regularly thinks of home.
“I have lots of memories. I remember playing pitch and putt at the Gleneagle, going to Kerry and Dr Crokes matches with my dad and I have special memories of the Ring of Kerry cycle as my dad, Denis, was one of the founder members so it was a big event for the family,” he says.
Now happily married, Norman says the reason he doesn’t get home as often as he would like is because there are too many nationalities to factor in with his immediate family.
His wife’s mother is from Finland, her father hails from Bulgaria so holidays have to cater for everyone. His father visits him in Sweden every year, however. His mother passed away shortly after he arrived in Sweden and Norman says he believes it was his mum’s will that he should stay in Stockholm for good.
When he does manage to get home he says he loves to visit some of his old haunts.
“I love to see the great scenery like the Gap of Dunloe, Muckross House and all those great walking and cycling treks,” he says.
“Not forgetting the pubs, of course. I enjoy popping in for a pint and a chat with whoever is there as it is very relaxing and it is true Irish culture.”
Boredom lured Val to US
THERE seems to be a 30-year emigration pattern in Ireland. In the 1950s, an economic downturn led to a mass exodus, likewise in the 1980s and now history is again repeating itself.
Val O’Shea was part of the 80’s generation. She left Killarney for New York as a bright-eyed 18-year-old in 1986 and it is there she remains today.
It wasn’t just economic concerns that led Val to the Big Apple, however. She says she was “feeling a bit bored” and had a longing to travel.
The Rock Road native has never forgotten her roots, however. She has very clear recollections of what she refers to as an “incredible” childhood.
“My strongest memories are of close family ties and lots of fun. Exploring all over on our bikes, gone from morning to night without a care in the world. We used to head to Ross Castle, Muckross and the Demesne,” she reflects.
Like a lot of expats, Val likes to engage in the odd spot of nostalgia and reminisces about the town of Killarney she knew growing up.
“I miss the days when High Street was bustling. I miss Sheehan’s, Dicko’s and Twomey’s shops, The Café on College Street, the old Imperial Hotel, the Fáilte, the Tatler and walking around Killarney on a Saturday afternoon to see who was in town.”
She says she especially misses the International Hotel as that is where her late father, Brendan, spent his whole working life.
Val now lives in the small village of Greenwood Lake, about an hour’s drive north of New York City. She says it’s not unlike Killarney and that is exactly why she chose to live there.
“It’s a beautiful place with a nine-mile lake surrounded by mountains. It definitely reminds me of Killarney,” says Val who makes sure she visits home at least once a year and she is already packing her bags for a trip back later in 2014.
Kieran longs for hometown wit
THE charm and wit of the local people is what Kieran Lynch misses most about Killarney.
He worked with Dawn Dairies for a number of years before his move to Geelong, Australia in 2009 and says back then, even at half four in the morning, people at work would have something witty to say.
“I miss the friendly banter and the many characters that exist around the town who you could write books about. It’s a great community and being away from it, I would encourage the people that might take it for granted to appreciate it and keep it alive,” he says.
Kieran is originally from Kilcummin and attended the local primary school and St Brendan’s College. He played football for Kilcummin, soccer for Mastergeeha and rugby for Killarney Rugby Club and, like many others, it’s the football he misses the most.
“We had a great rivalry against the Killarney town sides,” he remembers.
“We murdered each other on the field but when the game was over we shook hands and renewed friendships until the next encounter. Then at the Sem we played side by side with each other.”
It was the sense of community in the GAA that Kieran enjoyed the most and it is something that, he says, is lacking in Australia.
“I miss that great loyalty and passion that exists in local clubs. Players spending their lives with the one club is rare here in Australia as the majority of players move from club to club, depending on money and even at local level,” he notes.
Kieran has an Irish fiancée and, he reveals, they are both eager to return home some day.
“My head is in Australia for the time being. I have been blessed to meet some amazing people and seen some beautiful sights, enjoying the sunshine along the way. But my heart is always in Ireland,” he says.
They have returned to Ireland on a number of occasions in the last five years and Kieran says he finds it harder to leave every time he visits.
“I have spoken to many Irish people over here who share my philosophy about returning home when circumstances have changed,” he says.
* In tomorrow’s concluding part of the special Home Thoughts from Abroad report: An Aghadoe man’s life on the buses in London and two Killarney lads enjoying the lifestyle in Australia