After living for over 32 years in landlocked Ottawa, Chris, my second husband and I decided to move across the country to the mountains and the sea. Not the same mountains or sea where I spent my early years but across this enormous country, Canada, to the Pacific.
For the past 14 years, Vancouver has become our home. Although it is vastly different from my childhood home in and around Dublin, at times the smell of the damp earth turns the clock back and I’m walking once more up the dirt road to Cattegollager or BallyCorus, picking blackberries or chestnuts and running wild through the heather and the gorse.
I was born Oonagh Bernadette O’Connor on 5th January 1938 at a Baggot Street nursing home in Dublin. My mother told me that my first view of the world outside home was Stephens Green where she would walk with me each day.
A bit like James Joyce’s family, we moved around a bit, first to Blackrock, then Shankill where I spent the best part of my childhood. Shankill was a village back then. I have occasionally thought of writing an Irish Under Milk Wood version of that village and its characters.
My grandparents lived in Dun Laoghaire and I went to school in Bray. My dad and granddad were sea captains, so the sea and ships were very much a part of my early life. When I was twenty one, I left Ireland for the UK living in and around London for the next 10 years.
There I met my future husband, Edwin, and my political activism began in earnest, becoming involved with CND and the anti- apartheid movement.
Our three children Niall, Paul and Helen were born in the UK In 1968 we emigrated to Canada. After a few years living outside Toronto we eventually ended up in Ottawa, living and working there for the next thirty two years. And now, here I am in Vancouver, back beside the sea and the mountains, resurrecting those images of Killiney Bay and Dun Laoghaire that are embedded in my bones.