Wednesday 21 March 2018

From New York to Botswana: How the Irish around the globe will celebrate their roots on St Patrick's Day

Expat Dubliner Enda McCormack in New York.
Expat Dubliner Enda McCormack in New York.
Alexia Haywood will celebrate in Palestine.
Eoin Cantwell in Sharjah.
Mark Graham has a host of events lined up in Shanghai.
Neville McCormack will celebrate with friends in Cyprus.
Sarah Emma Badenhorst in Botswana with Cuán and Dylan.
Expat Sarah Emma Badenhorst in Botswana.

Chrissie Russell

For the Irish spread around the globe, St Patrick's Day is a chance to celebrate their roots.

Enda Carey in New York

Expat Dubliner Enda McCormack in New York.

In the late 1980s, Dubliner Enda Carey (main photo) celebrated St Patrick's Day in London, in the early 1990s it was Sydney, in 2008 he was in Buenos Aires, 2009 saw him in Hong Kong, and this year it'll be New York, where he now lives with his wife Claudia and son Liam.

"We'll be at the New York St Patrick's Day parade, which is one of the biggest in the world," says Enda (48), an assistant director of operational risk management at AIG.

"It'll be very different to celebrating back home as 90pc of the people celebrating aren't Irish, but a lot of them are of Irish descent."

Enda's "nomadic ways" started when he left Ireland to find work after studying accounting in Rathmines College of Commerce. During his time in Buenos Aires he started an expat travel blog,

There are some things he particularly longs for on March 17 when celebrating all things Irish. "I miss a good pint of Guinness - they just don't know how to pour it over here - a packet of Tayto and a good bag of chips with loads of salt and vinegar."

But being an official Irishman gives him carte blanche to ham it up abroad. "Yes, I tend to be over-the-top Irish at times," he laughs. "I belted out a good rendition of Irish Rover at a karaoke session a few weeks ago."

Eoin Cantwell in Sharjah

Eoin Cantwell in Sharjah.

Originally from Two-Mile-Borris near Thurles, Co Tipperary, Eoin Cantwell (28) is now the general manager of the Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club, the only place in the Emirate of Sharjah allowed to serve alcohol. Today will be the first time the club has held an official St Patrick's Day celebration.

"We'll have a few Irish dishes like Irish stew, bacon and cabbage and Dublin Coddle," says Eoin. "Then there'll be a band playing a few Irish tunes and the usual numbers."

Many of Sharjah Wanderers' 800 members are Irish, although other expats will undoubtedly also throw themselves into the celebration, since the UAE does St Patrick's Day on a grand scale. In the neighbouring Emirate of Dubai, eight miles away, the soaring Burj Al Arab has already gone green.

"I think people celebrate it here with more vigour than they do at home," says Eoin. "There's obviously more of a novelty factor and I think, as an expat, you always feel a greater sense of pride about being Irish when abroad."

He'll not be lonely. "I know four people living in the UAE who live within a few miles of me back home," laughs Eoin. "It's nearly a home away from home so I don't tend to get homesick too much.

"Obviously there's no public holiday on the 17th and that takes a bit of getting used to, but this year it falls on a Thursday and we have Fridays off so that's good news for the sore heads!"

Neville McCormack in Cyprus

Neville McCormack will celebrate with friends in Cyprus.

This year will be the first time Co Roscommon garda Neville McCormack, and his wife and two daughters, have celebrated St Patrick's Day away from home. He's recently started working for UN Peacekeeping in Cyprus.

"Normally I'd take the kids to the parade in Dublin so this will be a bit different," says Neville (39). "The Irish contingent in Cyprus will receive their service medals at a UN St Patrick's Day event run by the Irish garda here, and the ambassador holds a function for Irish people on the island.

"I think the day is celebrated and marked more by Irish people away from home so I'm looking forward to the experience and so are the rest of the family. There are 11 other garda here so I don't really feel homesick at all."

Mark Graham in Shanghai

Mark Graham has a host of events lined up in Shanghai.

Mark Graham (35) has a host of fancy events lined up to attend in Shanghai where he now lives. This year he hopes to avoid fancy dress.

"When I lived in Japan a few years ago I got convinced to dress up as part of a St Patrick's Day Parade in a small town where the locals joined in and had an Irish dancing group," he says.

"This year I'll be attending a St Patrick's Day reception hosted by the Consul General of Ireland, Ms Therese Healy at the Irish Consulate during the evening and also the St Patrick's Ball in Shanghai, which is black tie with around 800 guests, 20 different bands and goes on until 4am."

But he's not convinced the religious backstory is known. "Local people know it as an Irish drinking day," he jokes. "And that's enough for them."

It's a far cry from how the director of a UK luxury suiting brand would have been celebrating if he'd stayed in his hometown of Belfast.

"I never celebrated St Patrick's Day in Ireland in my life," he admits. "I'm not one for celebrating anything. I was born a grumpy old man, I hate Christmas and birthdays, but it's hard to avoid getting sucked into some kind of St Patrick's celebration over here."

So he'll not be weeping into his pint, longing for the old country. "I miss friends and family and clean air back home, but March 17 doesn't make me miss it any less or more."

Alexia Haywood in Palestine

Alexia Haywood will celebrate in Palestine.

Today, like every morning, Alexia Haywood will start the day by saying hello to schoolchildren who have to pass through at least two Israeli military checkpoints on their way to school in Hebron, in the south of occupied Palestine. She says St Patrick's Day is an opportunity to reflect on her fortunate childhood in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

"I grew up right next to the sea and I really miss walking and looking out over Dublin Bay. It always brings me a feeling of calm and peace and the colours of the sky and sea are different every day. I've always loved it, but now I realise what a privilege it is," says Alexia (36).

"People here have lived in a conflict situation and under military occupation for nearly 50 years. Despite being quite close to the sea, many have never even seen it, because it's so difficult to travel. You need permits to get into Israel and even to travel from the West Bank to Jerusalem."

Alexia is a volunteer ecumenical accompanier and human rights monitor with the EAPPI, a programme of the World Council of Churches.

Ecumenical accompaniers (EAs) offer a protective presence for vulnerable communities and, along with around 30 other volunteers, she offers support for local Palestinians and Israelis working for a just peace based on international law.

She hopes to make it to a St Patrick's reception hosted by the Irish Representative Office in Palestine. "It would be great to meet other Irish people living and working here and to share what we've been seeing with representatives of the Irish as well as other governments, as they have the power to help change the situation."

Sarah-Emma Badenhorst in Botswana

Sarah Emma Badenhorst in Botswana with Cuán and Dylan.

In January 1998, Sarah-Emma Badenhorst (42) left her hometown, the small fishing village of Killyleagh in Co Down, with the intention of spending a year working in a bar in the small frontier town of Maun in Botswana.

"A friend was working here as a bush pilot and knew a Swiss lady who owned the notorious local watering hole, The Duck Inn. I came out to run the pub and restaurant for her and 18 years later I'm still here!" she laughs. "The community here is always up for a good party and St Patrick's Day is no exception. Last year we all dressed up in Irish theme so lots of leprechauns, fairies and rugby players.

"People had shamrocks on their faces and the bar was decorated with Irish sayings, blessings, jokes and paper shamrocks everywhere. Lots of Guinness was drunk, people belted out U2 songs and attempted to Riverdance."

She reckons this year will be the same "but a bit tamer for me," now that she has two-year-old Cuán and two-month-old Dylan to look after.

"Aside from my family the things I miss most are potato bread, soda bread, Tayto cheese and onion and the banter in the pubs and on the boat when sailing on Strangford lough," she reveals.

"I think St Patrick's Day means more to me because I'm abroad. It feels good to connect to my Irish roots again and celebrate a bit of home. I'd love to come back, and still feel as homesick as when I first left, but I think it would be difficult as I'm married to a South African who loves the sun, braai-ing (a type of barbecue) and the outdoor life.

"We love camping and the bush is a fantastic place to bring up kids, free and wild and not materialistic in any way."

Irish Independent

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