Home Thoughts From Abroad – Part 1

Conor O'Riordan by-line picIT 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

Rob followed his heart

Rob Foley with Nikki on their wedding day
Rob Foley with Nikki on their wedding day

ROB Foley, like many Irish people abroad, misses being able to walk down the streets of Killarney and bump into a few familiar faces. The anonymity afforded to him since his move to Boston is not something he particularly likes.
“You couldn’t walk around the streets of Killarney without seeing at least 20 people you knew. The friendliness of the people at home is a big thing. In Boston, people would be less inclined to say hello,” the Fossa native says.
But that’s not to say he’s not enjoying his life Stateside. Rob moved to Boston for work reasons and for affairs of the heart.
In 2010, when he was still a student in UCC, he met the “amazing” Nikki, an American girl who was studying abroad for a semester in Ireland.
Rob was introduced to her through a friend who had moved into his apartment and they have been together ever since.
“She absolutely loves Ireland, particularly Killarney and the people and friends she’s made there,” he says.
In November 2012 they decided to move to Boston but they have returned for visits on no less than three occasions – with one occasion particularly special.
Last June Rob and Nikki were married in St Mary’s Cathedral and there was always only one venue in contention.
“It was her choice to have the wedding in Killarney because she loves the place so much, even though it meant a lot of her family couldn’t come. I think that says a lot about how much she loves Killarney,” he says.
An avid sportsman in his time, who played football with Fossa, soccer with Killarney Celtic and hurling with St Pat’s, Rob misses Gaelic football the most.
“I didn’t think this would be the case but I really miss it. Training every third or fourth night, having the craic with the lads and having a goal and trying to reach it was great,” he reflects.
Due to work commitments, he has been unable to join a team in Boston. As well as the people and the sports, Rob pines for the natural beauty of Killarney which, he admits, he took for granted when he lived in the town.
“From our house at home we have an amazing view of the lakes and mountains. I haven’t come across anything like it here in the States.”
One regular feature of Killarney that Rob doesn’t miss, however, is the rain.

Gemma misses home scenery

Gemma Lacey with a furry friend in Australia
Gemma Lacey with a furry friend in Australia

GEMMA Leacy’s story will certainly resonate with many twenty-somethings in her native Killarney and elsewhere.
Even with a Masters from the University of Limerick in her back-pocket, she found employment opportunities in Ireland extremely scarce and so, in 2011, she and seven friends decided to move together to Australia.
There was a sense of adventure involved too as Gemma admits she always had her eye set on travelling Down Under.
“I always had it in my head that I wanted to go to Australia and live here for a while. I was originally only going for one year but then it turned into two years and almost three years later I am still here,” she says.
Gemma initially settled in Sydney but after only a couple of months there her work took her to Darwin. She spent another seven months there before moving to Melbourne where she currently resides.
While Gemma says she has enjoyed every city she’s lived in, her heart lies in Melbourne.
“It is such a beautiful city. There is a great atmosphere, so cultured and relaxed and there is always some sort of festival or event happening.”
Melbourne has been a fine second home for Gemma but she claims Killarney is never far from her mind.
“What I miss most about home is probably the scenery and the beautiful places we have on our doorstep such as Ross Castle, Muckross and Ladies View. I don’t think I appreciated it enough when I was living there,” she says.
Gemma, who attended St Oliver’s National School and Killarney Community College, hails from Woodlawn Park. She says her strongest childhood memories are playing tip the can and rounders in the park with friends and heading to John Hickey’s shop afterwards for sweets.
Though she loves Australia, she says she can definitely see herself returning to Ireland sooner rather than later.
“Each year I say I will go home for good but that still hasn’t happened. I would love to live in Australia long-term if it was a lot nearer to home but the distance is just too much being away from family and friends,” she says.
She’s only managed to visit home once since she left – a surprise visit for Christmas 2012 – so she says she’s due a return soon.

Sean bets on the good life

Sean O’Donoghue is now a managing editor
Sean O’Donoghue is now a managing editor

“I DON’T think I have a gambling problem, but I miss being able to wander down town on a Saturday morning and have a small bet,” says Sean Pádraig O’Donoghue who misses the simple things the most.
A proper townie who grew up in 10 York Terrace on Lewis Road, he is the son of Sheila O’Donoguhe and the late Patrick O’Donoghue, who served as town clerk in Killarney until 1993.
Sean has been away from Killarney for almost a decade now but his memories of his hometown remain as strong as ever.
He reminisces: “I remember my dad taking me to Maguire’s betting shop on Plunkett Street, opposite the Tatler Jack, on Saturday mornings. The office had a single light blub dangling from the ceiling and high counters.”
His dad would usually place a 50p bet and then bring him back home to watch the races.
“Back then, there was no Ladbrokes or Paddy Power, just local folk making a few bob, serving local people. Those Saturday morning strolls down to the betting shop with dad were magical.”
Sean left Killarney with his American wife, Tabitha, in 2005 and settled in Lincoln County, West Virginia. They had lived on New Street for a few years prior to the move.
Sean had received a B.Sc from Trinity College and worked as a physiotherapist for the HSE for 10 years. He left his career in medicine behind him when he moved to America, however, and instead became a reporter with the local newspaper in Lincoln County, the Lincoln Journal.
Sean says he always had a love for writing and caught the bug early on.
“I had a terrific English teacher in Eamon Fitzgerald at Killarney Community College who nurtured in my classmates and I a love of writing and expression through words,” he recalls.
Journalism has proved to be his true calling as he is now managing editor of the newspaper and, just this year, was awarded the prestigious Best Reporting of Political Affairs award from the West Virginia Press Association.
Sean has one child with a Tabitha, a six-year-old daughter named Zara. She’s in her first grade and visits to Killarney have to be structured around her school holidays but Sean still returns home at least once a year.
He’s happily settled in America now though and, while he misses Killarney’s small town charms, he loves being within driving distance of big cities like Washington DC and Cincinnati.
There is one downside, however – the closest Catholic Church to Lincoln County is 30 miles away.
“That’s a big change for a guy who had a choice of the Friary, Cathedral or Church of the Resurrection,” he says.

* In tomorrow’s Home Thoughts from Abroad: A happy life in Sweden, missing the wit in Dawn Dairies and the Rock Road woman who left for the US as a teenager because she was bored