'I feel like Canada's oldest backpacker'
GENERATION EMIGRATION: I WAS 60 last week and my husband Seamus is almost 61, and at this stage of our lives, the notion of emigrating seems ridiculous. We should be coming out to Canada on our holidays, but instead we have left our home in Galway and our three children and six grandchildren to look for work abroad for the third time in our lives.
In search of an adventure, I first left Ireland for Toronto in 1973, with Seamus following a few months later. We were married in 1975 and settled in Edmonton in Alberta, where our first child, a daughter, was born.
Life was great in Canada in the 70s, but Ireland was where we wanted to raise our family, so in 1978, we decided to move back.
We built our own house in Oranmore in Galway, worked hard, and had two more children by the time the 1980s recession began to bite.
There was work around at that time, but it was very difficult to earn enough to get by. Seamus, who is a carpenter, went to Toronto to work for six months in 1984 to try to keep us going at home. He got a good job and we reluctantly made the decision to bring the family to Canada the following year.
It was a massive upheaval for the children, who were then aged eight, seven and four. We stayed for another five years before returning home to Ireland, thinking this would be our permanent address for the rest of our lives.
My husband and I set up our own construction business in Galway in 1990.
It was a small operation at first, doing renovations and building one-off houses, but as business picked up we took on bigger jobs. At one stage we had a staff of 15, including our two sons.
Business suddenly ground to a halt in 2008. We had no work of any substance on the horizon and had failed to sell two of the houses we had built. We owed money to the Revenue, suppliers and subcontractors, and had to remortgage our house.
We thought it was just a blip in the industry and things would pick up again, but we were wrong. Eventually we came to the decision to close the business, which was heartbreaking after working so hard for nearly 20 years.
Being unemployed was the worst feeling in the whole world. We have limped along for the past three years, with Seamus getting a couple of months work here and there but I haven’t worked at all. Seamus talked about going to Dubai on his own. He is a worker at heart and couldn’t bear being idle.
I kept saying I wouldn’t move anywhere else but Canada. Our age would be against us if we wanted to emigrate anywhere else in the world but we both have Canadian citizenship so it was the obvious choice.