In this week’s Across the Water, Martin Grant talks to Mark McGuinness, originally from Seafield Lawns, Dundalk, now living in Sydney, Australia.
Names of family?
Parents are Patrick and Iris McGuinness, still living in Seafield Lawns. Older brother, David, and younger sister,Emma, both still in Ireland.
When did you leave and why?
My wife, Keli,is from New Zealand but we met in Dublin where we worked for the same company for 4 years. We discussed lifestyle and career factors and decided that Sydney was the best option. In late 2004 we moved over to Sydney and are still here.
What’s your occupation?
I work for a management consultancy company who have a range of clients in varying industries all over the Asia Pacific region. I specialise in the delivery of large complex projects for our clients.
What was the biggest difficulty in settling in?
We are approaching our 10th year here so we are well settled in at this stage. We knew we would be here for a long time so one of our key decisions was to settle in an area which wasn’t full of Irish people in order to force us to embrace what the area had to offer.
If you are going to move to the other side of the world then do the things that you wouldn’t get to do back home easily, rather than spending your time in the comfortable surroundings of an Irish themed pub. From a work perspective, the first thing you notice is the multi-culturism of modern day Australia and what that means being Irish is that you need to slow down when you are talking and stop the natural urge to curse all the time.
Is the social life much different from home?
The main difference revolves around weather and food. More things happen outdoor given the favourable weather and its much more of an eating culture for socialising rather than our drinking culture. Pubs over here open at weekends a lot longer, not difficult to find places that are 24/7 or close at 6am and as such socialising at the weekend doesn’t tend to be as rushed as at home as you aren’t going to be kicked out of anywhere at 2am. However my social life has dramatically reduced since kids came along so BBQs at our place, other people’s houses or parks have replaced trips to the pub.
How do you like to relax?
We have two girls of our own (3 and 1 years old) and we also are guardians of our 12 year old niece, so there is not much time for relaxing. In order to help e scape this madness I do a lot of outdoor sports, in particular triathlon and ocean swimming. With the weather here it’s great being out in the water or on the bike or running and you can do it all year round without much discomfort. Great activities for helping you work through the stresses of the day and ultimately ones that you can involve the kids in as they grow up.
Have you been home since leaving and what changes have you noticed?
We have been home a number of times however it’s getting harder to do this as the family has expanded. We left Ireland when times were good and we left on our own terms rather than having to leave. So coming home in the middle of the recession to see so many shops closed and empty estates was heartbreaking. Growing up in Dundalk from the 70’s you were always used to that boom / bust cycle given our proximity to the border.
What’s the best and worst things about being away from home?
The weather is a huge benefit living here in Sydney. It makes so much difference when most of the time it is blue skies and sunny. It leads to you being more active and trying things that you probably would not have done if you were back at home. When we first arrived here I couldn’t understand why none of the houses had radiators and why the locals didn’t know what a radiator was. By the end of my first winter I understood.
Listening to the commentary on Dundalk FM of the football is great but it doesn’t replace pints in the Lilywhite Lounge after the game. You still miss the food although it’s pretty easy now to get your hands on a proper bar of Dairy Milk, a packet of Tayto, Chef Brown Sauce. I miss a decent pint of Guinness in a proper bar.
The worst thing these days though is not having easy access to the grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins for the girls to spend time with to bond those relationships.
Have you plans in the future to return home to Ireland for good?
We don’t have any plans to return home. We believe that Sydney is a great place for the kids to grow up. We are in the process of building a new house beside our favourite beach here and that will give the girls the opportunity to grow up in a location that offers so much.
The other consideration with us is that it’s not just Ireland, there’s also a New Zealand side to the family so any discussion on returning to Ireland also involves the ‘What about moving to New Zealand?’ option.