'A year after moving to Spain, we experienced the worst tragedy a family can'

After our son drowned, people thought we would return to Dublin. But we stayed and made a life here

Lynn McCabe with Chloe (19), Abby (13), Jordan (22) and Kai (15).

Lynn McCabe with Chloe (19), Abby (13), Jordan (22) and Kai (15).

 

Each week, Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. Dubliner Lynn McCabe runs a restaurant in Marbella, where she moved with her family 16 years ago. She talks about losing her son Leon and why she stayed in Spain to rebuild the family's life in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy.

When did you leave Ireland?

We came to Marbella in the south of Spain 15 years ago to open a restaurant. We chose Marbella because we felt our children would have a nice way of life. We also didn’t speak Spanish, so felt it was a good location for our restaurant, as a lot of people can speak English here. When we moved we had four children - Jordan who was six, Chloe who was three, Leon who was 18 months and Kai who was six weeks old. It was a brave move at the time, but one we wanted to try.

Our restaurant, Becketts, opened in Marbella centre 15 years ago and quickly earned a name amongst the Irish and English in Marbella. Sadly Becketts closed last Saturday, which is the end to an era.

Lynn McCabe outside her restaurant, Becketts, in Marbella.
Lynn McCabe outside her restaurant, Becketts, in Marbella.

What about your children? How did they adapt to life in Spain?

Initially we put our children in Spanish school and some time later, moved them to international school. International schools are expensive here, but I can honestly say I feel they have received an excellent education.

A year after moving to Spain, we experienced the worst tragedy a family can when sadly my son Leon drowned. At that point, I think a lot of people thought we would have returned to Dublin, but our restaurant was thriving and our other children had adapted very well to their new lives and schools. We were fortunate to have our families and very good friends here, so we stayed. A year later, our fifth child, Abby, was born.

Tell us how your work has gone.

We opened our second restaurant, The Playwright, seven years ago. The Playwright is in Elviria, which is about four kilometres outside of Marbella’s old town and has been very successful too, bringing food and entertainment to the area. Marc, who I was married to, and I are no longer together, and the restaurants we worked hard to build up have enjoyed ups and downs, but survived the recession and continue to serve a lot of Irish people every day. Marc and his wife Penny now have a third restaurant, The Harbour, in the centre of Marbella. I manage The Playwright. 

People ask me what is it like living in the sun and my reply is always that it’s the same. There’s washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, homework etc - I just do it in a nicer place

Is it different living in Spain than Ireland?

People often ask me what is it like living in the sun and my reply is always that it’s the same. There’s washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, homework etc - I just do it in a nicer place. There is a lot to be said for waking up to blue skies. The season was slow to start last year. The good weather over there in Ireland - and the World Cup - stopped some people coming out to Spain. But, hey, it’s another year and I am looking forward to this one in the Playwright.

Tell us about your children. What are they doing now?

My eldest son, Jordan, studied computer app development. He is now 21 and was back in Dublin for a while last year working in Port House, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Dublin city centre, where his Spanish came in handy. He back living in Marbella now and is launching his own social media business here. My eldest daughter, Chloe, is studying criminology at Oxford Brookes in England. I’m missing her, but am very proud of how well she has done. Kai and Abby are still at secondary school, and as spring is approaching, we are all looking forward to the summer.

Where have you settled?

We live in Elviria, which is very residential all year round. We are very fortunate to have beautiful beaches very close by, but my everyday life is not sunbathing and the beach. I do like that we can make plans for the weekend and not consider the weather.

The Playwright in Marbella, Spain
The Playwright in Marbella, Spain

Was moving to Spain the right choice?

Who knows? I do feel I have been able to enjoy my children growing up and we have had wonderful times. I also feel very grateful for the education they have had and having Spanish as a second language will be a great advantage for the future, wherever life takes them. Having grown up in the hospitality business will benefit them also.

Do you miss Dublin?

Of course I do. My family in particular. Luckily they do come to visit. The schools are quite strict, so unfortunately I don’t get to go back as often as I would like. However it is a different Dublin now and a lot faster than here. Mañana - as the famous Spanish saying goes. I’ve adapted my life and I enjoy living and working here.

If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.

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