Divorce was not legal or acceptable in Ireland in 1994. I moved to the US

John Cotter reflects on the opportunities Melrose, Massachusetts has given him

I grew up in Clontarf, Dublin, attended the O'Connell School on North Richmond Street and graduated from UCD in 1974. I moved to Melrose, Massachusetts, which is about eight miles from downtown Boston, at the end of 1994 and have lived here ever since.

I sell cars at a BMW dealership north of Boston, where I started in 2000. I left the business for a few years to sell real estate and insurance, but returned to the dealership in 2012 and will stay here until I retire in a few years' time

My route to Boston was somewhat circuitous. I trained as an accountant after I graduated and worked in Dublin and London before returning to Ireland in 1989. My partner was in Ireland and had purchased a country house hotel in Co Wexford. Our main business was bringing in hunting groups from France and Italy. This is a seasonal business and our plan was to have a year-round business with guests coming from Dublin and elsewhere.

I did not fancy my chances starting again from nothing at the age of 42

Unfortunately this did not work out as expected. I sold my share in 1993 and paid my debts. Unfortunately I was broke again having previously lost everything in a software development company. What to do?

Although the economy in Ireland was really taking off at the time, I did not fancy my chances starting again from nothing at the age of 42. I had applied for a Green Card in the lottery of allocated work permits for the US. Luckily my number came up so I was very happy to move here on New Year’s Eve in 1994. My intention was to begin my new life in the New World in the New Year.

Besides moving here to make a living, I also had a personal reason for doing so. My first wife and I had legally separated in 1982. Divorce was not legalised in Ireland until after I had moved to the US. We did have an English divorce and although recognised in Ireland, divorce was not as yet socially acceptable nor indeed would it have been acceptable to my parents.

I had dated a wonderful woman in Ireland, but broke up with her as I thought she would have a far better life with somebody who was unencumbered with a divorce.

In the US I worked as a night auditor for a while, but then thought the best way of making money was in sales. I sold Hondas for a couple of years, then Volvos and ultimately BMWS.

I met my wife, Kathy, the year I moved here. She grew up locally and had recently returned after living for a year in St Kitts, an island in the Caribbean. We met through mutual friends and very soon decided we would get married.

We saved for two years, bought our first home together and married in 1997. Our son, Liam, was born three years later and we moved to our current home in Melrose the following year.

Most of my family, including my parents, came to our wedding. We got married in the Episcopal Church, which was very welcoming to a divorcee.

My family totally embraced Kathy and she has become a very important part of our extended family in Ireland and England. Our son Liam has visited Dublin with us more than a dozen times and many of his cousins have visited us in Melrose. He is very close to his family on both sides and I'm delighted to say that he has a deep fondness for Clontarf and all things Irish - which my wife does too.

With the cost of private schools and colleges here, we are really pleased that our son will not be burdened with debt when he graduates

Although we will always visit Ireland, our home is here in Massachusetts. We have been very fortunate in so many ways. Neither my wife nor I had much when we met. Over the years, we have managed to pay off our house, educate our son privately, and provide well for our retirement.

Liam will graduate, debt free, from a highly-respected college in Boston next year. With the cost of private schools and colleges so expensive here, we are really pleased that our son has taken good advantage of his educational opportunities and will not be burdened with debt when he graduates.

We live well within our means. By so doing we have managed to be in the top 5.6 per cent of the population by income and assets. I mention this not as a boast but to bear witness to the wonderful opportunities we’ve enjoyed in the US, like so many Irish people before me and so many millions more from nearly every country on earth.

If you live 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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