These are the stories of young men and women who left Ireland and, after many years in exile, closed the circle of emigration by coming home again. Emigration had darkened the Irish landscape for almost one hundred and fifty years. Approximately half a million people left Ireland in the 1950’s alone.
“The whole generation before us had gone – there was something like 50,000 people leaving the West of Ireland every year – a huge exodus. Indeed whole villages were decimated” (Joseph Mullarkey)
Nobody ever envisaged that they would come back.
“That time they had to emigrate. There was nothing here. They had to go away. Now they’re bringing them back, it’s come the full circle. I never foreseen that. I never thought you’d see that day” (John Coyne)
Improved travel conditions made it easier.
“It was all boat that time” (Martin Cawley)
“Flying is the only way to travel now. Knock airport in Mayo was a godsend for the West of Ireland and of course, Ryanair. Where would we be without them?” (Seamus Roddy)
The ‘Safe-Home’ Programme made it happen.
The Celtic Tiger; retirement; illness; the death of a spouse; are some of the reasons they wanted to come home. Others were compelled to return because of eviction or war; many merely harboured the hope of spending their twilight years in Ireland.
These are their stories.
Frances Browner has conducted thirty-six fascinating interviews that highlight the heartache of leaving home; the struggles and successes of survival in a new land; the joy, and sometimes trauma, of returning.