A wishing tree, clever leather and the sea: Simone Rocha's hooks to home

Fashion designer Simone Rocha creates a collage of her Irish childhood with local characters, long-gone shops and the sea


To me, Ireland is home, and home is where the heart is. It is where I am from and I am proud of that. My dad is from Hong Kong, but I was born in Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin. Now, when I think of Mount Carmel, I think of the area where I had to take my driving test.

When I think of home, I think of Ranelagh, where I grew up: the old railway which is now the Luas, Jason’s, which is now a Lidl store; long grass, green moss-covered walls, Moyne Road,
Morton’s, Windsor Road, shopping trolleys, and the foster-parent family across the road, Hatty and Mitsey.

When I think of “hospice”, I think of the people I know who have been hospice patients, including Pat, who made all my leathers and who shared a workplace with my parents in South William Street.

I think about how he frequented Grogans and, thinking of Grogans, I am reminded of toasted cheese sandwiches with sachets of mayonnaise and mustard. And then I think of Glendalough – the smell, the fresh air, walking the bridges, and tying wishes on the wishing tree with Clairebán Coffey.

I think of the National College of Art and Design in the Liberties: the chipper, communion dresses, the 123 bus, the Guinness Storehouse, the smell of hops and peat, and Thomas Street.

When I think of home, I think of Birr in Co Offaly: pony camp, Grandad’s bungalow, hay bales, boys, Club Orange, singing, sean-nós, She Moves Through The Fair, Grandad’s funeral, Granny’s funeral, Irish funerals, walking behind funerals, community halls, first-aid classes, choir.

I think of driving home from Belfast after a Sean Scully show, buying fireworks and driving up to the Wicklow Mountains to set them off. It is getting dark and we don’t know where to stop. We go through the Sally Gap, over the mountains to the sea, ending in Sandymount, setting off the fireworks into the night. I think of the sea, the sea, the sea – in Dublin and in Cork, at Roundstone and the Forty Foot.

Ireland is home and home is where the heart is, with family and friends and strangers; music, laughing, kissing at the canal, singing, cold water, Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Louis le Brocquy and Shane MacGowan.

Extract from The Gathering – Reflections on Ireland in which well-known people write about their connection with Ireland. It will be in book shops from October and from
hospicefoundation.ie for €20. All proceeds to
The Irish Hospice Foundation

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