Back for the gathering: homecoming tales
Five emigrants who have returned to Ireland this year for the Gathering share their experiences
I was about 18 when I went to England. I was working at the time but everyone else was leaving so I decided to go too. We travelled on the boat with the cattle down below and the passengers on the upper deck. It was a bit rough. It is amazing how it is all done these days, I couldn’t see the young people now travelling with the cattle.
Áine Doyle (20) is spending the summer in Taipei, Taiwan tutoring SAT students. She is studying liberal arts in Brown University, Rhode Island, after spending the last two years of secondary school in Hong Kong under a scholarship from the United World Colleges programme. She visited home in Co Wexford for the Newbawn Traditions event in June.
When I was home at Christmas, Dad was talking about this idea he had that he thought would tie in nicely with the Gathering, a day celebrating the history and traditions of Newbawn, the village I come from. He was really eager that everyone would be home for it, and it was important to me to come back for something which was such a big deal to him.
It was a huge team effort; everyone in the community came together over the last six months and brought really good ideas.
It was held in Simon and Anne Ryan’s farmyard in Newbawn, one of the oldest and most beautiful farmyards in the area. During the day there were exhibitions of traditional crafts, demonstrations of old work methods, and live music, including a performance by singer-songwriter Sherry Ryan who came over specially for the event from Newfoundland in Canada, where many Newbawners would have emigrated to.
There was a lot of food, historical tours of the surrounding area, a photographic exhibition with about 300 images, and a reunion in the local school. That night there was a barn dance, which went on til the early hours of the morning.
About 2,000 turned out on the day, with people travelling from the UK, the US and Germany.
Because I come from such a small area, these kinds of get-togethers are really important. Things are both achieved and celebrated through large gatherings. It was wonderful to see the different skills and the diversity of people who came out to help. It was also a lot of fun for everyone.
Sean (John) Deane (71) took a boat to Australia in 1963. He is retired and lives in Sydney with his wife. He visited family in Carrig in north Tipperary for two weeks in March.
I have been back about five times since I moved to Australia but the last time was about 18 years ago. In March I came home because I had a bad dream about my sister, that she was standing at the end of my bed calling me. I said to my wife, “my sister must be sick, I want to go home to see her”. She quickly booked a plane and I came home, to find her as healthy as could be.
I hadn’t heard anything about the Gathering until my sister told me about it. But I wanted to come home because I thought there was a problem.
My family put out the word that I was coming, and we filled a room in Birr with old friends, some I hadn’t seen in 50 years. Some people I wouldn’t recognise any more, but others told me I hadn’t changed at all. We didn’t attend any of the Gathering events, but we had a lot of good family time.