The emigrant album: Irish faces in far-flung places
Irish Times Abroad project gathers tales of adventure and new lives from overseas readers
Picturing the Irish Diaspora: Readers have been sending us their pics and stories from around the world.
With one in every six people born in Ireland now living abroad, the Irish are among the most widely scattered nationalities in the world. To give a visual sense of our dispersed global population, and to find out what the Irish are doing in far-flung places, Irish Times Abroad invited emigrant readers in March to send us their photos and short stories through a new content-gathering tool on irishtimes.com.
The result is an interactive gallery containing hundreds of images and fascinating tales of both adventure and everyday life, from Irish people living in Cali in Colombia, to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
This is a selection of some of the ones we received; to view them all, and to add your own if you’re living overseas, see irishtimes.com/picturing-the-irish-diaspora
Jeff Dunne, New Zealand
I left Ireland in 2011 to travel the world. The adventurous nature of New Zealand ensnared me and I was soon employed as a glacier guide, leading groups of adventure-seekers across the Franz Josef Glacier on the remote South Island.
I landed a field support position last year with Scott Base, the New Zealand research base on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, supporting science research across the Ross Dependency. I executed logistics by air and land, flying and driving through harsh environments (-35C with 100km/hr winds) while navigating invisible hazards. It has been a mind-blowing and humbling experience to be one of the few people who have explored a piece of the world we still know so little about, where Mother Nature still reigns.
Lenny Daly, Finland
I left my job as an electrician in Ireland in 2008 and did a two-month sailing delivery from Greece to Seychelles. When I returned that November, job opportunities were scarce, so I left for Australia.There I met my Finnish love (now my wife) and we continued our travels. We came back to Europe in 2012 and worked on yachts, travelling around the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Three years later we left our jobs, married and moved to northern Finland. We went from having no possessions to owning a shop, campsite, 11 cottages, a puppy and our first home in a remote village of 40 people on the Russian border called Hossa, one of the most remote parts of sub-arctic Europe. Hossa is to become a national park this year and that drives us to expand and improve our business. We have exciting times ahead.
Lisa Coyle, Iceland
I traded the rain for snow in January and came to live in the north of Iceland. My cosy editing office has been replaced by a beautiful farmland full of cows, sheep and wild Icelandic horses on the mountainside. I had no reason to leave Dublin only for the ache of adventure in my bones. That and I’d fallen in love with the wild landscape on a visit two years previously.
I do get homesick, especially for the company of my lovely Irish mammy but she’s a great one for reminding me to adventure while I’m still able. I never dreamt that I’d trade in my marketing job to make a life as a cow midwife of sorts but here I am, knee deep in in farm life and all under the dazzling green of the Northern Lights.
John Oliver Coffey, Colombia
I arrived to Colombia in 1996 at the height of the conflict here, and made a documentary about a commune of Irish and English living in a “red zone” of Caqueta, infamous for Farc guerrilla and drug production. I met a girl in Bogota and moved between Ireland, the US and Colombia, before returning to Colombia full-time with our first child in 2006.
I set up a digital agency here which now employs 12 people. We now have two kids as well as rabbits, hens, dogs and parrots, with visiting wild monkeys, rodents, snakes, spiders, armies of ants, and more. The weather is tropical, the soundtrack is salsa. The people in Cali are friendly, vivacious and love to party. The countryside is stunning with glaciers, deserts, several varieties of jungle, and jaw-dropping biodiversity.
Martin Cody, Tanzania
I am general manager of the beautiful Four Seasons Safari Lodge in the heart of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. I’ve been living in Tanzania for almost three years, following four years in the Maldives. Since arriving in Tanzania, I have scaled Mount Kilimanjaro twice, which is something I would recommend everyone do; there is a great sense of achievement reaching Africa’s highest point.
Nicki Shira Byrne, Spain
I always wanted to live in the sun, ever since my parents started bringing me on holidays to Spain in the early 1980s. But I was tied to a profession as a dental assistant in Dublin, with a mortgage, car and boyfriend. It wasn’t until 10 years ago, when I took a year out and went to Thailand, that I realised I could do what I really loved for my living, and live where and how I wanted while doing that.
I returned home, and while working as a professional singer and vocal coach, I met my Italian fiance who shared a similar vision. Last year we moved to Fuerteventura with our cat, and I set up an international lifestyle and career transition coaching business, where I specialise in helping singers, vocal coaches and other service-based individuals to make a living using their gifts. Our first child will be born on Fuerteventura in May.
John Prendergast, Canada
Tháinig mé go Halifax, Albain Nua, i Lúnasa 2016 chun an Ghaeilge a theagaisc in Ollscoil Saint Mary’s ar an gclár ICUF (Ireland Canada University Foundation). Is cosúil le hÉirinn í an áit seo – agus is beag áit eile ar domhan ina dhéantar comóradh chomh mór ar shinsir na hÉireann ná mar a cheiliúradh ar chósta thoir Cheanada. Tá club CLG anseo, mar aon le daoine le suim sa teanga, sa cheol agus i gcultúr na hÉireann.
Free time here is spent skiing, curling and eating delicious maple syrup. I have developed an acute awareness of how lucky I am to be Irish out here, and intend to stay on the east coast of Canada for as long as I can. This is the third country outside of Ireland where I’ve worked through the Irish language, and I’m very grateful for the opportunities it has afforded me.
Adrian Crowley, Ghana
I am building district hospitals in Ghana. It is such a stunning country with lovely people. I have met other Irish here, who are all adding value to this society through their various endeavours. Every time I fly out of Ireland, I watch and talk to Irish people who work the world over giving their time, knowledge and expertise. We should be very proud of the quality of people we are sending out into the world; we are ambassadors of our great country when we are abroad.
Theresa Daly, Australia
I’ve lived in Australia since 1987. In my 30 years here I have had the pleasure of living in, and visiting, many parts of its diverse landscape. I’ve lived in Sydney, Kalgoorlie and Perth. We came as young and hopeful working-holidaymakers, and, three decades on, we have raised three great people with a strong pride in their place of origin (Western Australia) while embracing their Irish heritage and a respect for all cultures.
Australian life has been good to us. To be migrant is to be freed of the shackles that bind one into expectation, but it is to Ireland that I owe my sense of self, my passion for language and literature, for music and the sharp sense of humour that causes my head to turn when overhearing the warm tones of a conversation from “home”.
Vicki Nicholson, India
A sense of adventure brought me to India in the early 1990s. I had no plan to stay but wanted to immerse myself in a new and different culture. Almost 25 years later I’m still here. In 2001 I started a business providing consulting services in inter-cultural communication for global companies outsourcing work to India. I now run my own leadership development consulting firm, VNA.
I have another passion – road bicycling. I race regularly in India and abroad. This year I have qualified for the UCI Gran Fondo World Series Finals. I will race in the Irish colours in Albi, France on August 27th. I miss Ireland, so last year I began doing some work from Dublin. I am now in Ireland for at least a week every three months. If I could make it 50/50 India/Ireland, that would be my perfect life.
Peter Nolan, New York, US
Grace and I met at the foot of Croagh Patrick on August 20th, 2014. She was carrying her father’s ashes and I was with my 14-year-old son. I knew within moments of hearing her voice that she was special. My son liked her too – especially her Nirvana and Washington DC punk tales. We were married on January 31st this year in Lake Forest, Illinois and now live on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. It takes only a moment to change a life.
Margaret Golden, Manchester, UK
I followed my sister Moira to Manchester to train as a nurse in 1966. My mother saw an advertisement in a Catholic newspaper. I enjoyed my training and qualified as a state registered nurse in 1969. I met and married Patrick from Co Clare. We had two children, now married with children of their own. We are members of various Irish organisations in the city. In the photo we are supporting the Irish diaspora at the St Patrick’s Day parade here.
Faith Brennan, Limoges, France
In 2013 my husband, two small boys and I decided to take the plunge and move our life to rural France. With a pretty basic knowledge of the language and a very idealised view of life in France, we wanted our children to have the space to grow up as children can here; in other words, muddy and free.
Four years on, both boys are bilingual and love their school life. My husband is working for the French commune and I have a thriving wedding floral design business. Jonathon has even gotten the guys he works with saying “merciful jaysus” in a very strong French accent. The road to this point has been tough. Anyone living abroad misses their family and Ireland too of course, but now we are here and settled, we feel the French have embraced us hugely because of being Irish. Our life is here, but we will always be Irish.
Conor Haugh, Provence
I grew up in Ireland without feeling particularly connected to the country. It wasn’t until I moved to England to study that I noticed what I’d left behind; the sense of humour, the craic, the buzz of a Dublin pub, the charming countryside. When I returned for a year after graduation I appreciated the place a lot more.
I took off again, for a year of backpacking through Asia. Being Irish assured me a warm welcome across the globe. Our reputation precedes us, and it is generally a good one. Now I’ve settled in the south of France, in the hilltop village my girlfriend grew up in. We’re renovating a house here. I’m discovering what’s special about this place; the slow pace, the sunshine, the stunning landscapes, the food culture. I look forward to my next trip home, though, where I’ll appreciate what familiarity sometimes blinds us to.
Mariea O’Sullivan, Mozambique
Forty years ago Sean and I travelled to Zambia for a two-year contract. Eight years and four children later we moved to South Africa where we lived for 15 years. We returned to Ireland for a 13-year spell, and then took off again in 2013. In that time we have spent time in Kitwe, Lusaka, Durban (where Sean ran the Irish Friendship Society), Knysna , East London, Killarney, Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Addis Abba.
We think we are the only two Irish here now in Nacala, Mozambique, where Sean is working on a water project with consulting engineers Nicholas O’Dwyer. It has been a wonderful adventure and we have met such great friends along the way. We miss our children and grandchildren who are in New York. Lebanon and Dublin. At least with WhatsApp and Skype we can always keep in touch.
Nuala Ginty, London, UK
I love Dublin and I love Ireland, but I wanted to travel and work in the music industry. I headed off in 1998 to Sydney, met some people who had a room in London, and never moved back to Dublin. I worked in the music industry for 12 years as a press officer, and now I head up the social media and video team for a central London university. I am about to buy my first flat so London really now is home.
Margaret Collins, New Zealand
I left Ireland in February last year and travelled around South America for nine glorious months with a friend for the first three, and then on my own. I met amazing people on the way. In September I arrived in Auckland (I’m lucky to have residency) having lived here previously. I am working on a six-month contract to fund more travelling, while doing a Celta course to teach English, before I head back to Central or South America later in the year. The picture is of me on the Tongariro Crossing, one of the best one-day hikes in New Zealand. I will go home in October for a six-week visit to celebrate my 50th birthday, before heading off again for another adventure.
Maggie Winter, Mexico
I moved to the UK in 1968, Canada in 1976, and am now retired in Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico, for the past four years. I’m trying to learn Spanish and deal with the heat and humidity. I love Mexico though. I go back to Dublin to visit family when I can, but I want to go to India before I kick the bucket.
Yvonne Watterson, Phoenix, US
Originally from Antrim, I landed a summer job upstate New York in 1984. I had the time of my life, but I had to return to Belfast to finish my degree, and figure out how to get back to America. There was no work back home at the time. Three years later, with no job and no hope of one, I returned to New York, but not for long. I took a road-trip to the desert southwest, and Phoenix has been my home ever since. I have a 19-year-old daughter who is about to leave the nest to blaze her own trail, which leaves me wondering, is it time for me to return to where I came from?
Cliodna O’Flynn, Spain
I was an accidental emigrant. I planned a year’s leave of absence from my work as a news editor in RTÉ Radio in 1999, and have not returned to Ireland, yet.
I work for the local town hall as a communications officer and with a special mission to build and expand links between the council and the huge immigrant community – about 50 per cent of the 50,000 population are non-Spanish. I also host a radio programme in English on the local Spanish station. I am the mother of an 11-year-old Spanish/Irish young miss. I still hope to retire in Ireland, and I visit twice a year, but for now, I am very much the Irlandesa de Adeje, the borough that I have chosen as my home.
Greg Bell, Saudi Arabia
I was forced to reinvent myself in Saudi Arabia after a 12-year partnership in my Dublin architecture practice collapsed in 2010. Saudi Arabia is an architect's toy box, with high rise and multi-billion dollar building and infrastructure projects centred on the cities of Jeddah and Riadh.
I am now in my sixth year in “The Magic Kingdom”. I’ve become comfortable with the vagaries of life here although the women’s and human rights issues remain a concern. I met my wonderful Canadian wife on a desert trek. Together we have carved a social niche with good friends. The tax-free lifestyle has permitted me to pay for my kids’ education and old debts from the Irish recession. Now we are focused on property investments and plans for retirement in Ireland and Canada.