Since we moved here we have tried ice-skating, skiing, sledding and done amazing road trips, but it’s all a trade off for missing family at home.”
Roni Reid is from Edinburgh originally, but with a dad from Milltownpass and many family still living there, she moved to Mullingar in 1994 and met her husband Frank Lynam, a Rochfortbridge man, shortly after.
They lived in Mullingar until 2006 and went on to build a house in Rhode, County Offaly, where Roni says she thought their family would settle forever. But with the downturn in the economy hitting in 2008, Frank’s company, which was in the building sector, was hit hard by the recession, and in 2010 they made the difficult decision to finish trading.
“We never really decided to move to Canada but I think Canada picked us,” begins Roni, who explains how they attended a exhibition looking for skilled workers abroad in the RDS.
“We went to an expo in Dublin to check out Australia. The first day there were thousands of people queuing and there was no hope of getting in. It was a really sad sight to see if I am honest, to see all these people waiting, hoping that they were going to make a better life for their families elsewhere.
“We left and Frank said he would go back early the next morning and queue.
“He got in that time and handed out a few CVs but didn’t hold out much hope. A few weeks later he got a call from an electrical company in Saskatchewan in Canada, equivalent to the ESB at home, and did a phone interview. A few days later they offered him a job.
“It took months to sort out visas but in the summer of 2013 we packed up our two girls – Alix was 12 at the time and Ciara was seven. The girls weren’t keen on the idea but our initial plan was we would go for two years and then hopefully things at home would have improved and we would move home.”
They Lynam family have been living in Saskatchewan now for five years and last summer bought a house.
“Our first impressions of Saskatchewan is nothing like the idea we all grow up with of Canada, like images of the Rockies, the RCMP – the Mounties and their red tunics.
“Saskatchewan is the prairies, so it is super flat and freezing in the winter with lots of snow. It can get to -45/50 at times but even in winter we get loads of sunshine and blue skies.
“In the winter kids are expected to go to school. There are no snow days and they must go outside at recess unless it gets colder than minus 27. So it was a bit of a shock to our kids at first. The cold can be unbearable and I don’t think you ever get used to it.
“Driving conditions can be a bit tricky when there has been a heavy snowfall. I hate winter driving but again you just have to get on with it.
“Summers are hot and dry – we get very little rain so it does make up for the horrible winters. Saskatchewan is a huge province. It is approximately eight times the size of Ireland. I never really appreciated how big this country is, but you can drive for hours and hours on a road trip – which we have done a few times. One of our trips was to Montana in the United States.
“It was an exhausting 10-hour drive in the middle of summer with broken air con in the car. It was a long journey to say the least, but Canadians don’t think anything of getting in their cars and driving for hours – it’s just part of life if you want to see the country.
“We have been home three times since we left and usually we come home for four to five weeks at a time which is great, as it doesn’t seem as rushed, although you spend the last week of being at home worrying and dreading the goodbyes. They are the worst and never get any easier. If anything, it’s getting more difficult every time.
“We only came back to Canada mid-January after being home for Christmas and this time I avoided goodbyes altogether except for family at the airport. We really miss home and going home is bitter-sweet as it leaves you feeling unsettled when you get back to Canada and extremely homesick.
“There are many differences between here and home – the weather, getting used to driving on the opposite side, the school system, different food. Canada is quite expensive for day-to-day groceries, but healthcare is free. I would like to think and hope that we will return home one day but at the moment the kids are settled and love their lives here.
“Our eldest daughter wants to finish high school here in Canada and they have so many opportunities available to them. She passed her driving test last year when she was 16, and now drives herself everywhere and so is extremely independent. School has continuous assessments, with a final exam each semester, so there is less stress than the Leaving Cert.
“Since we moved here we have tried ice-skating, skiing, sledding and done amazing road trips, but it’s all a trade off for missing family at home and guilt that the girls are not getting to be with their grandparents, although we are lucky that my parents and Frank’s Mum visits us regularly. “Your friends here become like family as you have no family close by, so we generally celebrate events such as Paddy’s Day, Easter and Thanksgiving with Irish friends.
“To anyone thinking about emigrating, there are many benefits but also many pitfalls. It isn’t as easy as you think it’s going to be, you are basically starting from scratch.
“You have no credit rating and it’s lonely starting again in a strange place with no familiarity. Knowing that you are not going to bump into someone you know at the shops, or in town, takes getting used to and it took me two years before I started to feel any way settled.
“So you have to give it a chance. The time difference is seven hours, so it can be difficult to find a time to catch up with friends at home, as when they have time to sit down for a catch up you are busy, or vice versa.
“I think now it has been a great opportunity for us all as a family and I have enjoyed Canada but one day hopefully Ireland will be home again.”