How do you raise Irish children abroad? Bringing ‘the púca and children who were turned into swans’ to Belgium

Elaine McGoldrick writes how nursing in Ireland drove her to Scotland; and amid rainy summer days Laura Kennedy observes how Australians are tougher than the Irish

Hello and welcome to the first Irish Times Abroad newsletter of the new year. After an eventful Christmas, readers and contributors across the globe shared their stories about the new year. Eoghan Walsh wrote from Belgium posing the question, how do you raise Irish children abroad? Despite being immersed in a different culture, Eoghan found ways to bring the Irish myths and legends alive for his young children. Classic favourites from childhood such as stories “about the púca, the brown bull of Cooley and children who were turned into swans” captured his children’s attention even though trips back to Ireland were sporadic. It has been beneficial for Eoghan as well as “I discovered another Ireland too, a northern one I’d ignored from far-off Cork, in the writing of Wendy Erskine, Jan Carson and Rachel Connolly”.

Elaine McGoldrick writes about her second time emigrating to Britain, not driven by the housing or cost-of-living crises but rather by working conditions and “the fact that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage 12-hour nursing shifts in my 50s”. Elaine first left Ireland when she was 18 years old but her latest move to Dundee, Scotland, was driven by “adventure, new experiences, opportunities and career progression”. Elaine now works with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the NHS. “On a personal level, moving to work in the UK was about starting something new, new beginnings and choosing the direction that I wanted the next phase of my life to go in.”

Eddie Ennis arrived in Johannesburg from Dublin in 1984 when “it was a very different place than it is today”. Despite intending to stay there for two years, Eddie worked all over Africa including places such as Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Democratic Republic of the Congo. There was a large Irish expat community in South Africa, however, Eddie says he was “often told to leave and go back to Ireland if I hated the country so much”. During his time there he met his wife, Jacqueline, from Carrickfergus in Co Antrim. “Realistically, my future will always be in Africa, but I will visit Ireland,” he says.

“Apparently, we’re having a bad summer here in the Australian capital,” writes Laura Kennedy, due to the amount of rain falling – not something that would be strange to anyone in Ireland. However, as Kennedy observes, “I enjoy the rain here, which falls to Earth with the force of an insult because everything about nature in Australia is 10 to a billion times more intense than what we’re used to”. Despite the rain the heat is still present in the country at 37 degrees. All of this leads Kennedy to conclude that “Australian people are tougher than we are” as they can take the force of the melting heat.


Moving to New York, Katie Boyle talks about her experience in the Big Apple as a stand-up comedian and how she would not have been able to build such a following without social media. “There are a lot of gatekeepers in stand-up. It is predominantly a boys’ club and it’s hard to break into that. But when you grow a following, it shows that you’re undeniably funny and people want to see you,” she said. Katie used her presence on TikTok to build a career from a base in New York and she credited her art college experience with giving her the ability to improve her performances.

Derek Scally writes about the emerging music scene in Berlin where some Irish artists are making their name through the help of festivals such as Zeitgeist Irland 24. Cormac McAdam is one of these musicians. “There is a recognition here that clubs are cultural institutions, so the likelihood that they will continue here is at least greater than elsewhere,” he says. Like Ireland, there are growing price pressures in Berlin, however, Cormac cites it as an “incredibly easy” place to live. And Cormac is not the only artist that is taking part in Zeitgeist Irland 24. Tara Erraught, a mezzo soprano from Dundalk who is based in Germany says “we have to make sure the German industry and performers know they are welcome to come and help us make – or, rather, remake – our own classical tradition”.

You’ll find plenty more stories by and about the Irish diaspora this week on irishtimes.com/abroad.

Thanks for reading.