Mullingar emigrant Glenn Gilchirst spent this Christmas on City Beach in Perth, Australia.

Christmas on the beach for this Mullingar emigrant

Not everyone from Mullingar spent Christmas Day by the fire and had a turkey and ham dinner – for Glenn Gilchrist, it was a totally different affair.

The 26-year-old marked the occasion with a BBQ on a beach in Perth, Australia, like thousands of other Irish people his age who have made the move.

Mr Gilchrist told the Westmeath Examiner how he felt about the experience.

"It was my first Christmas away from home, which was strange enough, but to make it even more strange it was 35°C and I got sunburnt," he said.

Glenn Gilchirst with some sunburn courtesy of 35°C weather in Perth, Australia, over the Christmas.

"I came over in February of last year and my sister was already here. I got to spend it with her so I had some family around.

"We did the Santa stuff in the morning with her kid then left the house at 11am to go to the beach and meet people – that’s what most people do."

There was no turkey and ham dinner for the Mullingar man. "We had a BBQ down at City Beach, which was really nice," said Mr Gilchrist.

"There was stuff like burgers, sausages, and crayfish on the go, it didn’t feel Christmasy but I had a great time anyway.

"Me and my sister called our parents back home for an hour or so too for a chat, so it wasn’t like we didn’t get to talk to them or anything."

Mr Gilchrist said phone calls back home are a regular occurrence. "I think having a phone is the best thing ever, whenever I’m homesick I can just ring home or video call them," he said.

"It’s not like in years gone by where someone would go to Australia and you wouldn’t hear anything out of them for years at a time."

Christmas Day is different at his home house near Multyfarnham. "We would usually just chill out, do a bit of cooking together, and that sort of thing. I always looked forward to it," said Mr Gilchrist.

"I’d usually prepare some type of seafood dish as a starter because my father loves that sort of thing – that was a tradition of ours.

"We would just have a very relaxed Christmas really and might go down to the graveyard to visit the grandfather’s grave – another annual tradition."

It was a desire to explore and see more of the world that motivated Mr Gilchrist to move from Mullingar last year.

"I wanted to go just to change things up a bit," he said. "I was getting fed up being in the same job in Ireland for three years so decided to change scenery completely.

"Having travelled all around Ireland and seen what the island had to offer, I said it would be no harm to broaden my horizons and so I decided to take the leap."

Once in Perth, he soon realised he wasn’t the only young Irish person to come to that conclusion. "There are so many Irish people here it’s crazy," said Mr Gilchrist, who works in the construction industry.

"The majority of people you meet through work and stuff like that out here are Irish, it’s full of them. The place is Irish dominated really, I’ve worked for three different companies since I got out here and they have all been Irish-owned."

Mr Gilchrist said he has no idea when he will return to Mullingar, but hopes to visit sometime next year.

"I’m taking it day by day and don’t have any concrete plans of returning home in the long term, but I would like to come back soon for a holiday sometime in early 2024," he said.

"I wouldn’t mind going to New Zealand first too. I don’t think I will live the rest of my life here [in Australia] because the whole reason I came out here was to see more of the world.

"There’s more I want to see other than Australia. I love living out here but I also might love living somewhere else so I’ll keep looking."