Returning to Ireland

Submitted by Deirdre McNamee

Following a recent visit to Ireland I felt compelled to tell the story of my father who, like many men and women in the early 1950’s, left Ireland for British shores for what he perceived as a better life.

On arriving in England he made his way to Sheffield where some former school friends and a cousin were already residing. They helped him find accommodation and, most importantly, work.

A few years later he headed further south to Birmingham where, on the brink of the modern Industrial Revolution, one can imagine work was a plenty. It was in Birmingham that he met and married my mother and went on to have seven healthy children, of which I am the youngest.

However, the marriage was not a happy one. My father suffered underlying depression – such a condition was poorly recognised in those day’s and so, went untreated only to find the condition worsened and his health deteriorated over the subsequent years.

Making Memories in Ireland

Despite this however, this unhappily married couple made their way to County Offaly, Ireland, to my grandparents’ home each summer without fail. My family would stay sometimes for the duration of six weeks, while dad would return to England, to work. These were happy times. We kids had freedom and played from dawn till dusk amongst ourselves and also, of course, our cousins, our extended family. It was here that I recall first tasting a gooseberry.

Our Grandmother was so very kind to us and gracious to us, but you’d see the other side of her when she found out we were chasing her hens!

Of course, the most wonderful thing about our visits to Ireland was my father whose whole demeanour would change, as soon as he touched Irish soil, it seems. He would become relaxed, animated and joyful. Only at these times were we ever to witness such an attitude in him.

A Return to Offaly

Years later, my mother and father became officially divorced, my mother citing she could no longer ‘cope’ with my fathers ‘condition’.

My father returned to his native Offaly, a place he loved, buying a house which had belonged to an old school pal, Jimmy Mulligan, who resided at the ‘Old Post Office’, in Fahy Cross.

Visiting the town of Rhode now as I do with my own two children , one cannot help feeling a profound sense of vulnerability and intense sentiment in equal measures, as I walk throu’ the wonderful countryside, taking in the breath taking views along Ballyburly and even as far as Croghan Hill – a place which will always hold significant memories for me.

My dream now is to return to Ireland as often as circumstances permit me to do so.

I am proud to be Irish and truly value my Irish roots and would never deny my two children the chance to know their rich, cultural, lively and diverse heritage that is, IRELAND.

Author: Guest

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  1. I really liked your story,My Father left Ireland in the mid 60’s,he ended up in New York,he knew no one,but through other Irish in the big apple he did well,but like your Father he could never settle down,he missed his rural roots in Ireland,he married my mother whom was from Boston,they had 3 sons and 2 daughters,due to fiscal cost of returning to Ireland we managed it every 3-4 years,again like your Father,my Father lit up when we touched doen on Irish soil,I deeply miss him,he was a ‘Prince among Men,when he passed away we brought him back to his beautyfull Ardmayle and buried him in gods own graveyard in Ardmayle,’May the peace of god be upon you,and yours’,Tahnk you

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    • and to you too, John, we share an empathy……Thank You.

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      • Just wanted to say ‘thanks’ John and I really like the phrase that you used to describe your father – I am sure he was a ‘Prince among Men’.

        It was so touchingly respectful of you to bring him back to his final resting place in God’s own graveyard in Ardmayle…

        Your empathy is comforting.


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  2. Great story thanks for sharing and the pics too!

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  3. Hi Deirdre

    Your story is very touching and is reminiscent of so many situations that Irish people find themselves in when forced to emigrate.

    My dad was from Co Cork, my mother from Co Kerry. They moved to London after they were married and I was born there in the early 1960s. Thankfully they moved back to Ireland and my childhood was spent in Co Cork.

    A large proportion of my family are still in London, my brother passed away there earlier this year and I was taken by the London Irish presence at his funeral. There were people there from all over Ireland that still regard it as their home even after living in England for 50 years or more.

    It is lovely to see that even their children and grandchildren regard themselves as Irish. Lovely and a little sad at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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    • You are welcome, Liam…Thank you for sharing yours.

      I agree with your observations and findings when you met so many London/Irish people – how even their children and Grandchildren proudly hold onto their Irish Heritage – long may it remain this way!

      I consider you were very fortunate to have spent your childhood in Co Cork!

      Please accept my condolences upon the recent passing of your brother…


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  4. Such a nice article and one I identify with. I left Ireland for Canada 40 years ago and to this day have never settled. I love Canada and the Canadian people but still want to be HOME yes it is still home after 40 years.Maybe one day like your Dad I will be home.Thank you Deidre for your story.

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