As a lifelong Harry Potter fan I feel at home in Edinburgh

The city has magic in the air, as well as cheaper rents and better jobs for young health professionals like me

Speach and language therapist Mary Coleman, in front, with friends in her adopted city of Edinburgh

Before everyone had smartphones permanently attached to their hands, people used to read shampoo bottles while they were in the bathroom, or so said the meme that popped up in my newsfeed recently. Not me. I used to read Harry Potter books.

Harry Potter books were to me what social media is to teenagers today. If I ever had a spare minute, I was reading a Harry Potter book. I allowed the warmth and comfort of the books to wrap me up in their world at every opportunity.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone turned 20 on June 26th. Twenty years ago, I was seven years old. Throughout my life, Harry Potter has provided me with a source of comfort, escape and complete joy. As a 13-year-old, being haunted by a boy at school who, like a Dementor, was trying to suck the life out of me, I read Harry Potter books to escape.

As a 17-year-old, the night before my Leaving Cert results, for reassurance, I read the Harry Potter book in which the three protagonists receive their Ordinary Wizarding Levels (O.W.Ls) results.


As a 22-year-old, the night before I moved to Edinburgh to start work as a speech and language therapist, I read a Harry Potter book because I needed reassurance.

Feeling of home

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has come with me on every trip away – it came inter-railing with me when I was 19, it came to New York with me when I lived there for a summer, and it came with me when I moved to Edinburgh almost five years ago. Reading Harry Potter books has always given me a feeling of home that is only equalled by actually being at home.

Moving to Edinburgh, for me, felt quite serendipitous. It is, after all, where JK Rowling started to write the books. I have read the books in The Elephant House cafe where she wrote Philosopher's Stone, admired the plush Balmoral hotel where she wrote the final chapter of Deathly Hallows, and I happily congratulated myself on linking names on buildings to names of people and places in the books, such as St Mungos and House of Binns.

I don’t wonder why JK Rowling wrote about a magical world while living in Edinburgh. One minute you are on George Street, with its designer shops and swanky restaurants. The next you can be miles above the city on Arthur’s Seat, wondering how it is possible that a city can offer you the cosmopolitan and the rural at the same time. It is bursting with underground passages and old ghost stories scary enough to make Peeves run for cover.

I know I am lucky to be here. But I may not stay in Scotland forever. A quiet morning roaming Quay Street in Galway, brunch in McCambridges on Shop Street, or, more importantly, the ability to hop in a car and see my family whenever I want, are all thoughts that tempt me closer and closer to home each time I visit.

Of course, if I moved home, how often would I roam Shop Street on a quiet morning, or have brunch in McCambridges? Probably not that often. So it is the pull of family that tugs the hardest. Our country is beautiful, and if anyone tries to say a word against it, I shoot them down faster than you can say ‘Expelliarmus’. It is home.

Not easy

I’m realising though, that moving home wouldn’t be as easy as I thought it might be, especially considering that the Irish government often bemoans the supposed tyranny of emigration which is the current norm for Irish people in their twenties.

I see my friend, who qualified here in Edinburgh, being made to jump through hoops by the Irish Health and Social Care regulatory body to validate her degree, so that she can work in Ireland. She is a skilled and brilliant therapist, working here in a health service which I think is far superior to the Irish equivalent and yet when she wants to take her skill set to a service so desperately in need of therapists like her, she is treated as if her coming back is an inconvenience.

I periodically Google the price of rents in Dublin. And then I stop, realising that I would need all the gold in Gringotts to afford a place in Dublin, which is where there are the most job opportunities for SLTs.

Said jobs, however, are ones that you acquire through an archaic employment system where potential candidates for Health Service Executive jobs are interviewed en masse and ranked in order on a 'panel'. The interview doesn't relate to specific jobs or take into account any of the things that really matter when you're working – your ability to fit into a team, for example.

If Ireland wants young health professionals to come home, something must change.

Trips home

My trips home, full of family and friendship, always make me question if I should stay on in Scotland, or bite the bullet and move home. If the ability to ‘apparate’ was a human skill, I would be a pro.

But when I catch myself lost in thoughts of the future which never result in a definite outcome, I remind myself to live for the now (or my sensible mother does).

I live in a city that has magic in the air. I work in a health service where my skills are valued and I have the best colleagues anyone could ever ask for. Home is somewhere on the horizon for me. For now though, in Edinburgh, all is well.