Absent Friends - Belfast Bernie
edited: Saturday, February 03, 2007
By Paul Francis Mc Cann
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, February 03, 2007
Become a Fan
Emigration is for some the only way to go .
The Leaving Is Hard
It is hard to leave a country you call home and harder still to find another that can become your new home but for many emigration was the way to go .
Finding a home and a job. Building a future and settling down is what most people do in life but doing this, as a stranger in a country far from home is a challenge.
For many Irish people, emigration was an exit from the hardship in a place they had grown up in and called home. In the hard port cities like Belfast and Dublin people were bred and buttered some would say. Often those who had no butter had to leave to find it.
So many times far off fields look greener and leaving is never an easy road.
For some of those who left I am hoping to give an account of what it was like for some of them in a series of personal stories I call absent friends.
I have spent some time making personal contact with various people here in Australia through the Irish media and my network of Irish organizations. The people I spoke to gave me their permission to share some of the experiences they have come through before and after they immigrated to Australia.
The first group of people I am going to focus on are those in Belfast who left either before or during the troubles. For many people in Belfast the troubles arrived without warning on their doorstep and evicted them from their home. The emigration of thousands had begun again.
Bernie Glennon grew up in Ardoyne, a housing estate in North Belfast.
He knocked about the back streets with school friends and went to St Gab’s boy’s secondary school and has fond memories of his walking to school with friends on the dark winter mornings. Bernie had some good teachers at St Gabs who were proud of their Irish ness, like Mr Mulvena who made Gaelic Football compulsory rather than English Football. Then there was Mr Brannigan who was a semi-professional actor who often put on Irish plays at the school for all the parents. The works of Sean O”Casey were some of his favourites.
Bernie’s family lived in Eskdale Gardens, a street of about 200 terrace houses were all the families were very close in a Catholic Community.
In Bernie’s home there were 8 in the family. Bernie was 13 years old and had 5 brothers Gerald, Francis, John, Michael and Brendan. His Mum and Dad Barney and Marie lived happily in the tiny little home in Ardoyne until the troubles erupted in Ardoyne. It was 1968 and some of Bernie’s school friends were unfortunately killed. Bernard Fox was the first to have lost their lives to a bullet, and day-by-day the troubles escalated. More and more young people were killed in the violence on the streets.
When the troubles were at their peak in 1972 Barney and Marie decided to get out of the bloodbath and took their six sons over to Birmingham in England. It was difficult to walk away from all they knew but it had to be done to protect their children and hopefully find a peaceful existence.
When they went to England Bernie lost contact with his school friends and found it hard making new ones.
To A Land Down Under
After five years Bernie decided to immigrate to Australia. 12 thousand miles away was a big step for him to take.
He was unsure of what lay ahead but in faith he took that step.
With no friends or family here in Australia Bernie ventured out into a new world on his own .He took on the challenge of a new life in Australia and burnt his bridges behind him.
Bernie was determined to make it work here in the land down under.
He got a job as a shunter on the New South Wales railways and stayed there for 17 years. During this time Bernie took on some part time studies in Law.
After he had worked all day on the railways Bernie went to study at night in the hope to better himself and create a new career path. Eventually the hard work paid off when he obtained a Law Degree. Taking up a practice as a solicitor Bernie began to think about further studies in Law and advancing to the next level in his new career. Bernie took up studies for his masters’ degree in Taxation Law and achieved his goal.
Bernie is now a tax consultant and is studying for a Doctorate of Law as Sydney University.
He has set targets and made a mark and now lectures in Business and Taxation Law in University. He has been called to the bar in the New South Waled Supreme Court with his specialised skills in Criminal and family law matters.
He married a girl called Helen and they have a young daughter Michelle.
Since leaving his parents Bernie has been home a few times for a visit.
He has been away from Belfast nearly 40 years now but has no regrets about that. Australia opened a welcome to Bernie and it is here he found a new life and a home.
By Paul McCann