Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

From one island to another

Vera Keogh left Ireland for Canada with her family this summer, and is enjoying every minute of her emigrant life so far, despite the difficult goodbyes.

Tue, Nov 29, 2011, 14:46


Colm, Vera, Naoise and Enya Keogh at Snug Cove, Bowen Island

Vera Keogh left Ireland for Canada with her family this summer, and is enjoying every minute of her emigrant life so far.

Ours is not a tale of woe and sadness but of positivity and new experiences since we left the magical green Isle.  These experiences will one day be re-sown and reaped again in Ireland or perhaps not.  However we are enjoying our adventure so far.

Our family, my husband, myself and our 2 children aged 6 and 2 left Ireland on the 1st June 2011.

My husband had a new and challenging job to go to, which put us in a very favourable position when leaving our own country to begin an adventure in a new one. My husband’s parents and family also live in Vancouver.

Our decision was tinged with sadness. Leaving family, especially our children’s very precious Grandma in Ireland, our neighbours, friends, relatives, our son’s very good friends, our home which we had put many years of sweat and tears into, were all very difficult.  Of course there was a level of excitement in all our planning too, but not for one minute did we take lightly the affect our leaving would have on all of the aforementioned.  On the other side, in Canada, we had lovely grandparents and family eagerly anticipating our arrival.

We had done some research in advance of our departure and planned to base ourselves in Bowen Island, about 30 minutes by ferry from Vancouver. We had never been to the island but the culture shock of moving to a new city was more than we relished.

Our island is home to approx 3,500 people and the landscape is stunningly beautiful. From the moment we arrived we have been welcomed a thousand times over.  It’s an amazing community where there is excellent support but not in an intrusive way.  Children are top of the list and there are so many affordable and wonderful activities to get involved in. It makes such a difference when people make an effort to say a friendly word. Ireland has always been know as the ‘Island of Welcomes’, but I feel that trait has been somewhat lost. Maybe this is something that can still be reignited, as a friendly welcome means tourists will always return to Ireland.

On the morning of our son’s first day at school questions did run through my head as we stood in the big school hall – why did we take him from all his great friends and class back in Ireland? I felt lonely and anxious, but those feelings were very short lived, as he happily walked away hand in hand with his new teacher and never looked back.

Almost every person we have met has either been to Ireland or would like to visit.   It is most encouraging to hear people speak so highly of Ireland. In turn, we highlight the wonderful sports, arts and culture, history, nature, and landscape that exists in our country. While I do not miss the air of doom and gloom that was very prevalent in the country before we left , we still felt very proud to be Irish as we recently sat watching a Neil Jordan film Ondine and listening to the beautiful music by Lisa Hannigan.

Skype and email are wonderful as we can keep in contact with family and friends in Ireland, and makes us feel like we are not so far away. Of course, I miss the Ryan Tubridy show every morning and our son misses his Grandma’s mashed potatoes!

If I did have a magic wand I would expel all the awful loneliness and sadness that an Irishman/Irishwoman feels as they have to leave their country.  The magic wand would also dispel the same feelings for their loved ones left behind.  And the third wish would be that if there is no choice but to go that the emigrants and their loved ones left behind know in their hearts that they will return in the not too distant future to their Ireland.

Who knows what’s around the next corner but for the time that we are away from Ireland it’s a privilege to enjoy and partake in the enriching experiences we encounter daily.

Slán for now.