The Admiral’s Marina in Harbour Grace was packed, starting at 9:30, with dozens of people who call Ireland their home, as well as dozens of proud Newfoundlanders who shared their own homes with the European visitors.
The gathering was a departure and farewell for Irish folk participating in the Newfoundland Ireland Gathering, an event held by Newfoundland and Labrador Irish Connections that sees communities across the province opening their doors to Irish travellers for several days, with the intent of deepening the connections between the two already closely-tied areas.
The general mission of the non-profit organization is to develop and promote both the cultural and historical experiences between Ireland and Newfoundland, and to celebrate their shared heritage. In order to accomplish this, the organization commits to helping both residents of Ireland and Newfoundland travel between the two parts of the world for several days, experiencing the vastly different, yet similar, lifestyle, culture, and views each place has to offer.
Mick Casey is a historian who has taken part in the trip for six years. Casey told The Compass that he takes great pride in his Irish heritage, and that travelling to Newfoundland allows him to see parts of Irish culture that he may not get the chance to witness back home.
“We go back, we have the same bloodline, in a lot of cases,” Casey said. “We come from strong, hard-working people. That’s clear when you look back at things like the Irish famine, and Newfoundlanders’ history with the fishing business, and making a living for themselves off of the land. On both sides of the Atlantic, we’ve got the same bloodline, and similar experiences. There’s something to be proud of there.”
Casey said that his travels through Newfoundland are always full of excitement, and that he’s looking forward to the group’s next stop in Renews, but added that there’s always something similar about every trip – the people, and the sense of welcome and community he finds in all of his travels through the province.
“There’s really nothing like it,” Casey explained. “There’s a big emotional connection to the people here in Harbour Grace, and we’ve only been here for three days, and it’s the same everywhere I go in Newfoundland and Labrador. The people are the friendliest I’ve met, and there’s nowhere that I feel out of place.”
Sean Callahan also calls Ireland home, and is a member of the committee for the organization. He told The Compass that his experiences in Newfoundland thus far had been unforgettable and, like Casey, said the hospitable and welcoming people of Harbour Grace and surrounding areas were at the forefront of his so far wonderful overseas experience.
Callahan described trips to places like Heart’s Delight, where he got to see some of Newfoundland’s famed scenery, stating that he was thankful he had to opportunity to stop for a photoshoot here and there to really take in the sights.
“You know what? It all comes down to the people,” Callahan explained. “It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and the people we’ve met are what really make it great. The food is lovely, the music was great, but the people really topped it all off. We’re far away from home, but sometimes it feels like we’re still there.”
The morning ended off with residents of both Newfoundland and Ireland joining together to sing “Ode to Newfoundland,” followed by a mass lineup on opposite sides of the Marina, where each of the Irish visitors shook hands, hugged, and said goodbye to each Newfoundlander in the room.
The travellers were then escorted out of Harbour Grace, where they headed onward to their next three-day destination – Renews.