'Scotland is our home now, but Brexit has led us to reconsider our future here'

Working Abroad Q&A: Barry Chapman is a pharmacist in Edinburgh 

Barry Champman, his partner Conchi Sanchez Perez and their  daughter Greta

Barry Champman, his partner Conchi Sanchez Perez and their daughter Greta

 

Working Abroad Q&A: Barry Chapman, who is originally from Co Longford, now lives in Edinburgh where he works as a pharmacist. 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.

When did you leave Ireland, and what were your reasons for leaving?

I moved to Scotland in 1998 to study pharmacy in Aberdeen. At the time, Trinity was the only university offering a pharmacy degree in Ireland, and the points required in the Leaving Cert were huge, so I looked to the UK. I still remember the conversation where I told my parents of my plan to move - they were so surprised but 100 per cent supportive from the start - including financially at a time when the punt/pound exchange rate was very unfavourable. I was only 17 when I moved, but I never really felt homesick - I moved over with two people I knew from Longford and quickly made a whole group of new friends. It’s only now that I look back at how young and naïve I was!

It was with a group of these new friends that I visited Edinburgh for the first time in February 1999, and I knew fairly quickly that it was somewhere I wanted to live for a while. So after university, and a year living in Glasgow, I moved here in 2003. Little did I know I’d still be here 16 years later.

Tell us about your career as a pharmacist.

I’ve been qualified for 16 years. I worked initially for a big chain, but moved to Omnicare Pharmacy, a smaller, Edinburgh-based group in 2009. The pharmacy I manage is in the Gorgie area of Edinburgh, which has changed hugely over the past 10 years. On top of the regular pharmacy offerings such as dispensing prescriptions and providing over-the-counter medicines, I work closely with the GPs at the local surgeries to develop services to suit the local community - whether it is monitored dosage systems for our older patients, or services allowing us to treat urinary tract infections or impetigo without the patient needing to see the doctor.

I have continued to develop my clinical skills, and last year returned to university to study to become an independent prescriber. This allows me to prescribe medication in the same way a doctor does. I now work one day a week at a local medical centre seeing patients with respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD. One of the major challenges the health service faces here in Scotland is a falling number of GPs, so it makes sense that pharmacists have stepped into the gap.

If you wanted to come and work in Ireland, what are the opportunities like for your chosen career?

I have plenty of friends back in Ireland who work in pharmacy. There are definitely more opportunities in Ireland to own your own business, but I think it’s counter-balanced by the opportunities offered in Scotland to develop professionally and to become integrated into the health service.

Is the prospect of Brexit changing anything? 

Brexit overshadows everything at the moment, doubly so in our house as my partner Conchi is Spanish. It has been incredible to watch a country seemingly slip collectively into madness, and no dinner or drinks with friends seems to go without conversation about the dreaded B-word. Scotland is our home (I have now lived here longer than I ever did in Ireland), but Brexit has led us to consider our future here. This is something that causes me huge anxiety; that we may have to pack up and start somewhere again.

The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has consistently pointed out the damage that leaving the EU will cause, especially to the opportunities available to future generations. She has also been very supportive of EU immigrants like ourselves who have come here to make our lives. I voted for Scotland to become independent back in 2014, and the whole Brexit catastrophe means it’s likely I would do so again given the opportunity.

What is it like living in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is a great place to live, and even after all the years here I am still amazed by the beauty and drama of the place: from the castle on the rock to neat Georgian neighbourhoods. Our daughter Greta was born in 2014, and that of course changed our lives in so many ways, including our appreciation of the amenities on our doorstep - from free museums and galleries, to plentiful green spaces and sandy beaches. Edinburgh retains a smalltown feel while having all the attractions of a capital city. And although residents have differing views of the annual Edinburgh festivals, I still get excited every August when they kick off - even if these days I am more likely to be attending a “bubble-man” than some avant garde theatre!

The city also has its problems. Like Dublin, housing and rental prices are a major issue, especially for younger people coming here and trying to get on the ladder. And recently the levels of tourism have created some unique problems. It is an expensive city too. In the UK maybe only London is comparable in terms of cost of living.

What do you think your future holds?

While the threat of Brexit hangs over us, who knows? But life goes on, and Greta will start school this August. We are a bilingual household, with English and Spanish spoken, so to encourage the development of her language skills we have enrolled Greta in a Gaelic (pronounced “gallic” here) school. In preparation, she has been attending a Gaelic nursery for the past year and has been bringing home lots of new songs and phrases. For those that don’t know, Scots Gaelic is closely related to Irish - the pronunciation is quite different, but it shares of lot of the vocabulary. I was always pretty poor at Gaeilge back in my school days (sorry Mr Flanagan), but Greta bringing these familiar words and songs home has reignited my interest. To be honest I’m shocked how much I remember!

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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