Friday, November 17, 2006

Kilcullen down under

There's been a recent large exodus of Kilcullen young people to Australia, which has particularly impacted on the GAA Club.

As reported on the club's website, Sarah Burke, full-back on the ladies team which had a good run in their debut year, has gone to join the growing contingent of Rags in Australia. Others in Oz with Kilcullen GAA connections are Sarah's team-mates from the ladies team this year, Vicky Jones and Patricia Aspell.

Johnny Howard is chairman of one of the GAA clubs in Sydney. Senior star Shane Lambe and Amanda Cross (another of this year's ladies team) are also going or gone in the same direction, and senior player and ladies team coach Kevin O'Brien is also heading down under in December.

Conor Gleeson dropped us an email from Bangkok where he stopped briefly on his way to Sydney. He'll update us in due course on Christmas with the others there.

The trend prompted the Diary to wonder about some of the Kilcullen people who have settled in Australia, and indeed further on in New Zealand, for short or long term. We know that there's regular checking in to the site from that part of the world, including by the Editor's own daughter Caroline, who moved to Melbourne in May.

Among those who have made direct contact with us lately is Jim Greenway, formerly from New Abbey and he used to work on that estate in the late Ken Urquhart's time. He has been living in New Zealand for the last 33 years.

Jim's grandparents were Maurice and Margaret Barker of New Abbey. He was home in Kilcullen for a few days in April, to visit his many relatives still here.


He is married to a New Zealander, Wendy, and they have two children and a grandson. Their daughter Analeigh is a lawyer, and their son James is a chartered accountant currently working in London. "We are very proud of both of them," Jim writes.

He says that he thinks frequently about all the characters he used to play darts with in Orfords Knockaulin Bar (now The Spout). But where he lives is very different.

"I love New Zealand for its great outdoors. The bush is only minutes away for runs or walks, as is the sea and fishing. The scenery is awesome, and there are endless barbecues through the summer with great friends.

"I am a great sports fan and New Zealand is crazy about sport. I did marathon running for 20 years, and loved all the company and companionship that went with it."

Jim works as a maintenance fitter, and also does property investing as a sideline. He maintains regular contact with fellow emigrant Matt Hughes, who lives in Sydney, Australia.

Also from New Zealand, we've had contact from Irene McDonnell, now living in Christchurch, where she hopes to have a B&B business up and running in the new year. "It is a beautiful country, named aptly 'The Land Of The Long White Cloud' or Aoteora. Christchurch is the garden city of the world and their beautiful botanical gardens are a feast to the eyes at the moment."

Matt Hughes is from Old Kilcullen and his wife Una (Doyle) is from Brannockstown. Working respectively as photocopier technician and accounts clerk, they have been settled in Sydney for 19 years, and check into the Diary almost every day. Both are pictured below on a recent holiday abroad (looks like New Zealand?).


Matt has two brothers in Ireland and Una has three sisters and a brother. "I remember best about Kilcullen our friends and the Hideout, and also the Tennis Club," he writes. "What I like best about where we are are the weather and the people."

Mark Shortt from Old Kilcullen, now living in Robertson, Southern Highlands, NSW, has also been in touch. Mark is the son of Francis and Mary Shortt, the second youngest of six which includes three sisters and two brothers.

Robertson is located half way between Sydney and Canberra, and Mark says it is the closest place in Australia to looking like Ireland ("think Wicklow Mountains").

"I've been here now for two years this December," he writes. "I moved out here with my wife Nicole, who's an Ozzie, and now we have a new addition to our family -- Dara who is ten weeks old."

Mark works as assistant manager on a stud farm. "It's only small at the moment, and new, so there's a lot of work to do before we're fully up and running. We hope before long that we'll be breeding future champions of the racing world."

Mark's parents and youngest brother Dermot are still in Old Kilcullen; his eldest sister Catherine lives in Logstown along with their other brother Francis Jnr; second eldest Trish lives in Colbinstown, and Sandra lives in New Jersey USA.

His best memories about Kilcullen are 'everything', including playing GAA with all the seniors and juniors for many years. "Also all the people on the old post route when I was a postman for three years before coming out here. I miss them all, both young and old, and the new residents who got to know me.

"There is everything to like about Oz. It has so many opportunities for young people who want to make a go of work and life. The variety of everything from food to places to go is mind blowing. Put in the hard work and you'll get places here."

Mark figures he has settled now and only comes home for holidays to see his family. He was here last new year and thought that Kilcullen is changing almost beyond recognition.

"I always look into the Diary everytime I log on. It's really good to be able to see what's going on at home, which is where the heart is no matter where you are in the world. And as long as you remember where you're from and who you are, with the help of the Diary you don't get too homesick, knowing you're only a click away always."

Brian Byrne.