My eldest daughter Shann went to Liverpool university to train as a nurse in September of 1989. It was natural to chose a career in a caring capacity, because she had plenty of experience helping me to care for her nine siblings.
Before we left her to the airport we had a farewell meal for her. This was the beginning of a tradition that we have had for each child leaving home. It was difficult for us as parents to say farewell. Would she return to Ireland to live after she finished? Many Irish children have gone to England in the past to study or get work and settled there.
Down through the years many young men and women have left these shores because of famine, forced exile, to find work or to avoid the troubles. The Irish are to be found all over the world. When young people last century went to America the family would have a meal and get together with friends. They called it a wake because the family would not see them again. It must have been heartbreaking for parents to say farewell without the hope of seeing their son her daughter again. The sadness is often found in the songs and music of Ireland.
Brendan remembers seeing men having to register for work twice a day in his home town. If they did not find work they had to go to England. His two uncles went to England and never returned.
Ireland is known as the Land of Saints and Scholars. Down though the centuries young men and women left Ireland voluntarily to bring the Gospel to the nations. We have a wonderful Christian heritage despite the internal wars. Brendan and some of our children work in the nations.
We left Shann to the airport and said our final farewells. Brendan was sad to see his little girl wave goodbye. We were all in tears. The children would miss their big sister.
Many years later, Shann told me she was crying on the plane. She had mixed emotions; sad to be leaving home but glad to get away as well. This was Brendan and myself’s first experience of letting our child fly the nest. Parents rear their children but have to let them go as well. We had plenty of work to do back home to take our mind off our sadness.