Monthly Archives: August 2012

Reading up on today’s Irish living and working in Canada

I’m just back in New York after a great few days in Toronto.  While my visit this time around involved many miles of walking, coffee at cafes like Manic and Sublime, and delicious meals every direction, I also appreciated the chance to learn a bit more about the influx of Irish citizens moving to Canada.

Guy Chazan wrote an extensive feature in the Wall Street Journal timed to Ireland’s elections last year about the “new wave of emigration” (within the European Union as well as the likes of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), but, for all interested, I’ve compiled a number of other relevant articles below.  If you have any additional recommendations, please let me know or share in the comments.

If you have five minutes to watch as well, DIASPORA is a short film screened back in March (2012) at the Toronto Irish Film Festival featuring glimpses into the thoughts and experiences of some who’ve come from Ireland to Toronto in recent years:

(DIASPORA from Barbara on Vimeo)

“Irish job-seekers hope for greener pastures in Canada”
The Toronto Star, Nicholas Keung
10 May 2010

Karl Gardner, deputy head of the Embassy of Ireland, said Irish people have a long tradition of adventure and migration. While the island’s population stands at 4.5 million, there are an estimated 75 million people of Irish descent around the world, including 4.35 million in Canada. “We have always travelled,” Gardner said from Ottawa. “The sense is it is something that we do.”

“St. Paddy’s Gets Greener with Irish Influx”
Torontoist, Carly Conway
17 March 2011

Canada’s last influx of Irish immigrants, following Ireland’s War of Independence and the Great Depression, ended by the 1960s.The age difference between the two groups doesn’t go unnoticed: “I think there’s a bit of a void,” says Donal Ward McCarthy, who moved to Toronto from Cork in 2002. “There’s a clear gap between the older generation and growing number of young Irish immigrants in Toronto.”

“The Irish unemployed seek greener shores in Toronto”
The Globe and Mail, Ian Merringer
20 August 2011

The migration is so steady that the Irish government last week moved to set up an immigrant services centre at the Ireland Fund of Canada’s downtown offices. For the first time, Irish immigrants to Toronto will have a staffed centre for assistance with jobs, housing and visa issues.

“Canada calls out for thousands of Irish workers to fill job vacancies”
Irish Independent, Allison Bray
19 November 2011

“We’ve surpassed the US now with emigration and are second behind Australia,” [Loyola Hearn, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland] said. And such is the level of emigration and business between Canada and Ireland that the embassy is spearheading a campaign to establish regular direct flights between the two countries, he added.

“Go west for a new home in Canada”
The Irish Times, Ciara Kenny
24 May 2012

More than 7,000 Irish people moved to Canada last year, with approximately 60 per cent settling in Toronto, and the majority of the remainder choosing to live in Vancouver. Housing in Canada varies greatly between provinces and territories, cities and suburbs, so what can you expect when searching for a new home, and where can you go for advice?

“Ireland, inching back from the brink, battles to reverse the emerald migration tide”
The Toronto Star, Niamh Scallan
28 April 2012

“We have two responsibilities to young people,” [Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland] Gilmore told a crowd at the opening of a downtown [Toronto] Irish immigration support centre on St. Patrick’s Day. “To create opportunities in Ireland for those who choose to come back and to let them know we do not forget them … they’ll be back.”

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Mná na hÉireann, Patsy Cline, Paddy Reilly, and a few songs on Spotify

A few people have asked about the soundtrack from the “40th Anniversary in America” party last month, so I wanted to share the playlist on Spotify. I’ll write another time about the meaning behind the songs, but, for all who listen, hope you enjoy the mix:

1. “Amazing Grace” by Celtic Woman
2. “Cliffs of Dooneen” by Paddy Reilly
3. “Raglan Road” by Paddy Reilly
4. “Shores of Amerikay” by Michael J Tinker
5. “Shores of Amerikay” by James Galway
6. “Danny Boy” by Jim Reeves
7. “The Long Black Veil” by The Chieftains
8. “He’ll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves
9. “I Fall to Pieces” by Jim Reeves & Patsy Cline
10. “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” by Jim Reeves
11. “Leavin’ on Your Mind” by Patsy Cline
12. “America” by Simon & Garfunkel
13. “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel
14. “Nuala’s Bonnet” by Cillian Vallely & Kevin Crawford
15. “More Than a Feeling” by Boston
16. “American Girl” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
17. “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie
18. “The Kerry Jig / The Rambling Pitchfork” by Denise Shiels
19. “Mná na hÉireann” by John Spillane
20. “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” by the Irish Tenors (i.e., Anthony Kearns, Finbar Wright, Ronan Tyran)

Again, if you use Spotify, you can listen here.

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Forty years like yesterday

In July of 1972, my mom landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and went to see her oldest brother, his wife, and their three daughters in the Bronx. It was her first time in America, and, while there is much more to share in the book and on this blog, to simplify: last month marked her 40th anniversary here.

Most everybody knows the feelings that accompany leaving or being left behind. For all who have moved from one country to another, often without knowing if or when they might again see loved ones back home, those feelings are especially heightened. No matter how well-grounded the reasons for departure may be or how much time passes, memories of people and places don’t slip away and the experiences with distance and loss remain. For my mom, settling in the United States is inseparable from leaving Ireland and losing her mother.

This year, to help make the month of July a little less bittersweet, my sister Tara and I planned a surprise party to celebrate our mom and to honor hers. Our aunt and uncle hosted the gathering in their beautiful backyard in Princeton, Massachusetts, and we couldn’t have asked for more glorious weather to welcome family and friends who came from elsewhere in Massachusetts and as far away as Long Island, Pearl River, and New York City.

Posted on Facebook (sign-in required) and shared selectively through Google+ afterwards, I’ve also uploaded a Flickr slideshow that captures a glimpse of the fun.

(Ed. note: Embedding the code for slideshows has been breaking with WordPress, so I’ve included the links above; any advice welcome.)

As you’ll see in the second photo, we thought a celebratory banner would make a nice addition to the day. After a few searches online (and confirming the company’s legitimacy with the Better Business Bureau), I found BannerBuzz and designed our 12-foot vinyl greeting.  Allowing a bit more than a week for delivery, I had no worries until I checked the tracking code only to discover that UPS’s “shipment progress” column read like a warning: “This shipment is warehoused until it is released by Clearing Agency.”  Instead of coming from the company’s Greer, South Carolina headquarters, our order was on hold in Ahmedabad, India.

Two days later, I saw the good news that the banner had made its way from Gujarat to Mumbai.  From there, I followed its route online as it left India for Cologne, Germany, then Louisville, Kentucky, and eventually Windsor Locks, Connecticut before arriving on-time in Central Massachusetts.

Despite the “Happy 40th Anniversary in America, Nuala!” proclamation that had traveled the world to find its place draped over the rock wall at the bottom of the driveway, it wasn’t until my mom walked into the house and saw her sister-in-law Peg who had been there in the Bronx when she first arrived in America four decades earlier that she really began to recognize the reason for the gathering.

Later in the day, in the company of nearly 30 people who knew my mom from so many parts of her life (both past and present), for the first time I read aloud sections of my book.  The responses were all I could have imagined: others shared their memories of looking up to older siblings, of hearing their family stories, of leaving their homes.  The conversations continued late into the evening.

At the end of the weekend, my sister headed back into Boston and I returned to New York.  A few days after we left, my dad e-mailed to let us know just how happy our mom was and that he had hung the banner across the top of the bookshelf in our home office where it would be a reminder for the remainder of the year.

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Another step forward, bringing the past to life

When I was 12 years old, I told my mom that someday I would write her story. She grew up on a small dairy farm in the southwest of Ireland as the fifteenth of sixteen children. Like many, she went to work in London and, at the age of 21, came to New York. The day after she arrived in America, her mom passed away back in Ireland. For as long as I can remember, these memories and so many more have captivated me and resonated with all who have likewise experienced loss or left home — and know what it means to leave a part of themselves behind.

Having first traveled to Ireland when I was only eight weeks old, I returned often throughout my childhood to visit family. After graduating from Boston University in 2005, I moved there to follow through on the promise I had made a decade earlier. For nearly a year and a half, I conducted interviews, delved through local archives and government records, traveled widely, and began writing a non-fictional book that weaves three generations of my family’s experiences through the backdrop of a changing community and country.

During autumn of 2006, I joined Google’s global communications department at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Since then, over the course of almost six years, I’ve felt blessed to work with the most wonderful colleagues around the world and to be so involved with the broader technology and journalism communities.

All the while, living in San Francisco (2006-2008), Sydney (2008), and New York (2009-present), I’ve continued to write and edit during my weekends and vacations — working outside of work to bring my family’s memories to life through the written word. Some have called this a personal passion. Others say the effort has been a labor of love.

To me, quite simply, it’s time. Friday marked my last day at Google.

While I’ll still be very much involved in the same tech and journalism circles, I’m setting off to focus on publishing my book and sharing the stories it holds. Whether with a traditional publisher or independently, I’ll certainly pursue many creative and entrepreneurial angles that make the most of the online landscape and will be looking forward to sharing updates and reflections here at the Irish road as well as via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other platforms.

Thank you again to everybody who has expressed such support and interest over the years. Much more is yet to come!

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