Home Thoughts From Abroad – Part 3

IT is frequently claimed that a day out of Kerry is a day wasted and in the case of Killarney, there certainly 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.
Concluding his 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.

Tom’s lifetime in London

Home is where the heart is for Tom O’Shea
Home is where the heart is for Tom O’Shea

IT is 62 years since Tom O’Shea left the green pastures of Aghadoe for the busy city life of London.
The year was 1952 and Tom was only 12-years-old. His father had passed away in 1949 and times were tough for his mother and two sisters so they decided to try their luck in the UK.
It may be well over half a century ago but Tom has strong memories of life if Killarney and his later life in London.
His abiding memory of his childhood in Killarney was the sense of freedom he enjoyed, something that was obviously missing in London.
“The freedom we had was great. Running around fields and occasionally raiding orchards for which we would receive a good slap on the wrist,” he laughs.
He attended Fossa National School and has very clear memories of the “deadly” daily walk from Aghadoe to school. When he left for London he found it difficult to settle at first.
“I was 12 and landed in the heart of London which was a big shock and a big difference from the green fields of Aghadoe. I wasn’t very streetwise, you know, so it took some time to adjust,” he recalls.
Luckily, he had several Irish friends for company which made the transition a bit easier.
“We used to head to Hyde Park on a Sunday to play Gaelic football. I used to pal around with a lad from my school who was from Tralee. We later got involved with a GAA club in London, Kingdom Kerry Gaels.”
After school Tom became a bus driver and spent 38 years negotiating the streets of London. He raised a family as well and after he retired he decided to move to Skerries in Dublin to be closer to his daughter. His son, a businessman, lives in Scotland.
Tom says he regularly visits Killarney and describes it as “the finest place on this planet.”
He’s not a massive fan of Killarney’s more modern buildings and misses the old, narrow laneways but he’s not against modernisation.
“Ah well, that’s progress I suppose. At least they bring employment to the town,” he concedes.
Tom has seen some changes in Killarney over the years but his love for his hometown has remained unwavering.

Ian loving the adventure

Ian Griffin misses crisps in the Tatler Jack
Ian Griffin misses crisps in the Tatler Jack

WHILE emigration is usually associated with negative connotations, some see it as an adventure. Ian Griffin is one of these people.
While financial pressures post-recession and a struggling construction industry played a big part in his decision to relocate his young family to Australia, he says he was always intrigued by his uncles’ tales of life in New York when they left Ireland in the 1980s.
“They would always came back with awesome stories and brilliant presents so I have wanted to experience something different in life since then,” he says.
Ian, who comes from Woodlawn, attended St Oliver’s National School and St Brendan’s College. He has fond memories of his school days, in particular his years in the Sem which he described as some of the best days of his life.
Ian still keeps in touch with his old school buddies, who are now spread across the planet, from the US to France, through messaging apps.
He was a member of the Killarney Judo Club too and has happy memories of good sessions in the Aras Pádraig.
He says his favourite time of the year in Killarney was the summer.
“I miss the summer buzz of the tourists and playing with all the Park Road Estate gang from morning until dark. I also miss just being with my father, having a Coke and crisps in the Tatler Jack.”
Ian is loving life in Australia though.
“It has great opportunities for experienced construction workers and there’s also the weather and the fantastic lifestyle for young families down here,” he reports.
He was promoted to the role of site manager for a large construction project 10 months after he arrived there and Ian now works as an operations manager in the mining section of the firm.
He’s based in the Pilbara which is a large, barren area in the northwest of Australia. It’s a long way from the bright city lights of Sydney or Melbourne but Ian enjoys it nevertheless.
He tries to return to Killarney every 18 months or so and, naturally, it’s his family and friends he is happiest to see.

Killarney folk never change

Colm Bowler is happily married in Australia
Colm Bowler is happily married in Australia

IT’S 15 years since Colm Bowler left Killarney for Australia so he’s in a better position than most to survey the changes the town has undergone in the last decade and a half.
Some things never change, however.
“A lot has changed in Killarney in 15 years but the people don’t really,” he observes.
“They’re always extremely welcoming and happy to see you when you go home, as long as you’re not bringing home an Aussie accent.”
Colm is from Ballydowney and attended the Holy Cross Mercy and The Monastery primary schools and St Brendan’s College after that.
He has fond memories of his school days and says one of his earliest childhood memories is of Kerry captain Ambrose O’Donovan visiting the Mon with the Sam Maguire.
Colm left home for Sydney in June 1999, nine months after his brother moved over and Colm says that inspired him to travel too.
“I’d had enough of my brother calling from Oz boasting about the weather when it was raining in Killarney,” he says.
He initially planned to use Sydney as a base for traveling but once there, he fell in love with the beach lifestyle and an Aussie girl who would later become his wife.
Now after a decade and a half Down Under, and happily married with kids, he says he finds it harder to return home as any visits must be structured around school holidays.
Colm says he still misses Killarney, however, and thinks about the town and its people a lot.
“I miss family and old friends. I miss the lakes and the long summer evenings which we just don’t get on the east coast of Australia,” he says.