These Irish eyes are smiling from a faraway land

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Picture: Peter Fiorenza
Camera IconPicture: Peter Fiorenza

I’m a big fan of St Patrick’s Day.

Because my grandmother was Irish, it holds a special place in my heart.

My dear nanna has been gone for some time now, but when she was around, she played such an important part in my life and, therefore, is never forgotten.

I could never forget her round, smiling face, her beautiful laugh and her ever so special hugs.

Sometimes they were so tight, you lost your breath.

Nanna also had a beautiful Irish accent that simply endeared her to everyone she met.

Growing up, Nanna was the No.1 babysitter, which meant we grandkids got to spend a lot of time with this wonderful lady, who would tell us endless stories of her time in Australia and back in the north of Ireland.

In fact, she inspired me to eventually travel to the Emerald Isle, learn more about my heritage and meet a few rellies along the way.

In the later years of her life, Nanna, who had run away to come to Australia in the early 1920s, decided she wanted to touch base with her two younger brothers, who she left behind and never saw since.

John and Arthur were very young when she left and she just remembered them as small boys, so when she miraculously got to talk to Arthur on the telephone in the late 1980s, the tears flowed.

About 10 years later, my aunt was on a European trip with her husband, when they visited my nanna’s home town in County Fermanagh.

Drinking at a pub in Newtownbutler, they decided to ask one of the patrons if they knew of the Maguire family (my nanna’s maiden name).

And they did. The result is, I have now travelled to that beautiful part of Ireland twice to spend time with family and help renew a connection for my nanna.

So St Paddy’s Day is indeed special and Geraldton’s terrific Irish community celebrate it in style.

The local Irish club, which has its little headquarters in Wonthella, is always welcoming, let alone on St Patrick’s Day.

At my work, I always make an effort on the day to find the Irish ladies on staff and wish them a great day.

I know we are not all Irish, or have Irish connections, but I reckon there’s nothing wrong in changing who we are for just one day and joining in the chorus.

“When Irish eyes are smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”

Happy St Paddy’s Day, Nanna ...

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