An Trek Fada

Day 12 – An Immigrant’s Tale


The significance of me walking to New Ross today and ending it at the Emigrant Flame in front of the Dunbrody Famine Ship was planned. Some might not know why, but last June sitting on the Quay listening to the tale of the Irish Emigrant Kennedy story leaving these shores and finding life on the other side resonated with me to my core.

You see – Emigration is a tale as long as time is there. Whether you are talking about nomadic existences, settlers, discoverers, voyagers, or people fleeing from wrongs – people have been on the move for all eternity.

Why then do we rue the day when our children have to leave or choose to emigrate. No matter what the reasons, any form of emigration is a spirit of change, adventure and a road less travelled – it’s not an easy way out.

The question to me is not whether we emigrate, it is what we do with this gift when we do. Do we sit around in a new country and look up our fellow countrymen and bitch and moan about how good it is back home? Do we sit in our new country and live in misery and squalor because we are saving every penny to send back home? Do we spend every day, and in some cases a lifetime in bitterness and regret that we left in the first place?

Or do we go into our new life with the same spirit of adventure and discovery that our ancestors did, and all those millions before them, and give it all we’ve got.

I chose the latter. The intent was never to live in Ireland, it was one of the former moans – to live here for a year, save lots of money (a joke really in itself, as those who know me knows I am incapable of saving!) and then move on to provide my son with a “better life”. The irony is not lost – because our better life is here, and has been for the past 14 years.

Now I hear you say – I told you South Africa is a terrible place. Au contraire – it is one of the most beautiful, diverse, stunning and layered places in God’s creation. I will always and foremost be a proud South African. Yes, there are problems, but where on this earth do we not have problems, and in some parts of the world far more than what most experience in SA, because at least they have the freedoms of choice.

No, without realising it at the time I needed a big change. A challenge. My core belief system is to embrace the present with all my heart, and in this case it was Ireland. And it was not all a journey of sunshine and roses – along the way there were many more downs than up, but alas, for every minute I put into my new home country selflessly, I somehow got 3 minutes in return. Minutes of camaraderie, friendships, colleagues, foreigners and the list goes on.

And before I knew it, I was proudly Irish. Not a birth right – an earned right.

So today when I walked into New Ross, and walked up to the Immigrant Flame, I kissed the plinth gently that it rests on, and thanked my lucky stars for all those that have gone before me, that showed me the way, and all those that will come after me, that will hopefully learn from us who gave it everything we got.

I can walk with my head held high, and know that albeit how small, I did something over the past 13 days for my fellow countrymen through one small charity like BodyWhys, to help them raise awareness and funds for the generations after us that have such difficulties in daily life, far less important, yet far more hurtful than a simple act of moving countries.

P.S. Please note this picture was taken before I had my awesome Irish Tan!

An Trek Fada

-4 Days – Message in a Bottle

Meant to be
Letter from Cumbria

Whenever I receive post at the hotel addressed to previous owners or staff that are long gone – I simply put it in the bin, as by this stage I assume it is junk mail.

Return to sender...
Return to sender…

This morning – for whatever reason – was different. I was about to put this hand written envelope from the UK, addressed to a Mr G O’Hanlon, in the bin when something told me open it. And so I did….

In there, was this letter from Margaret Battrick from Lancashire in UK, explaining how she was walking on the beach on 17th April 2014 whilst visiting her mother-in-law in Braystones, Cumbria – and amongst the rubbish she found this bottle with a message in it. The message had a reward of £5 – no less – for the person who returned the message to Mr G O’Hanlon at the Brandon House, New Ross, County Wexford.

Very quickly we put the story together, and I decided to contact Mr O’Hanlon’s mother to tell her about this most extraordinary happening.

George O’Hanlon was her son, and was born on 7/7/77. She can’t quite recall when George sent the message in a bottle, but she can recall that he did as a young child. She was filled with joy and love, and told me what a creative, wonderful and imaginative child he was. How much she missed him and how wonderful it would be for her to get this, and to share it with his friends.

George O’Hanlon left us on 1 December 1998 – but through this extraordinary circumstance, I ask that just for a brief moment we pause to think of a creative young man – a dreamer – who sent a message in a bottle.

That message found it’s way to me today, so I am now adding George’s memory, and all those who left us too early – to An Trek Fada.





An Trek Fada

-6 Days – Read all about it

New Ross Standard - 29.04.2014Again, it’s been a very long day with much to be done before I can set off on my walk.

That said, today I have blushed like a virgin bride after seeing myself sprawled out on the front page of the New Ross Standard! I hope everyone donates very generously, as whatever dignity I had left is now there for the world to see, and I am realising that I might need counselling after this myself. Truly – how and why did I get myself into this?

Now I have to get some rest for my other great event – and that is to be at the South African embassy tomorrow morning at 8am to vote for the first time with my son.

My posts will be far better once the holidays start and all my attention will be on making it to the other side.

An Trek Fada

-7 Days

The Official Logo for An Trek Fada proudly designed and sponsored by Fleur Creative - thanks Mandy as always!
The Official Logo for An Trek Fada proudly designed and sponsored by Fleur Creative – thanks Mandy as always!

Today in a week’s time I will be standing at the steps of the Titanic Centre ready to embark on my journey back home to Wexford.

Right now I am scared of failing, and am thinking how much more I have to do before I can set off.

It is my intention to take you on this journey with me, but as with all things, there are only so many hours in the day, and until the walking is the only thing I have to do, then my posts will be brief. That should relieve those that know if a blog was a spoken word I would never stop talking!

Yesterday I successfully finished my longest training walk yet – 23km – and am in remarkably good shape today, bar maybe highlighting that my feet must not be forgotten.


Day 29 – The day after…


Yesterday was just simply NOT a blogging day. It was a day for reflection and nostalgia.

Just when people tell me that social networking is over rated, or mostly that they don’t understand it, then you realise how it also brings people together. My post wine-jump expedition on Saturday was followed by more wine, a “braai” and our divorce party. Yes, my Ras is moving out, and as this was our second divorce, we felt that we had to celebrate it. (For those that do not know about our soon to be EX-living arrangement – watch Modern Family)

But I digress – just by chance I tapped my Facebook update on the ol’ iPhone, and there I am met by two posts from someone who is a friend of my mother, and merely a Facebook acquaintance of mine. It was what he posted though that touched me profoundly, and opened floodgates of distance, memories of laughter, love and mostly my mom and my longing for the wisdom of my dad.

The one was Jacques Brel (famous Belgium songwriter and singer) singing Marieke, a song that during my growing up was belted out by a singer Leonora Veenemans on many occasions. It recollects long journeys in a Grey Rover van den Plat to Cape Town, where the tape would be played over and over again. It reminds of chilly nights in Hogsback to a 3/4 beat. It makes me remember my mother varying it with every Elvis track imaginable, and boisterous singing to all corners of South Africa – in heat that saw the tar glimmer oily on the horizon, or in stop start slides down black frosted mountain passes.

The other? The other was a clip where Anthony Quinn (very elderly) meets the composer Mikis Theodorakis in a slow dance and a fast embrace to the now symbolic plucks of the Theme tune to the Movie Zorba the Greek. And in Anthony Quinn’s frailty I see the passions of the past, but in his spoken words I hear the answer to our present. “And I want you to know, the music of Zorba – is the music of life. And to live life fully – you must always love. And I love you” A man must have truly lived to say those words to another man so convincingly, and so unashamedly – such awe and humility in those simple words.

So out of the doldrums that was homesickness, sadness and nostalgia yesterday, I give you today these words from Zorba himself:

Alexis Zorba: Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You’ve got everything except one thing: MADNESS! A man needs a little madness, or else…
Basil: Or else?
Alexis Zorba: …he never dares cut the rope and be free.

Five pounds down in total – falling seriously behind. Then again -I’m on a journey more thana quick ride?

Calories? Who cares….. rather – Teach me to dance!!