Posted on Mar 13, 2017
I came to Sligo in 1995.
I had been working in Zambia after being in the UK for many years, I was recently married and I wanted to come home to live in Ireland.
I was on a short Locum contract in Letterkenny when I was invited to an interview in Sligo. I was unsure about as Sligo as I had never been there. That in itself was surprising, for, as children we had holidayed as a family in every corner of Ireland, or so I thought. In my mind, if I had never been to Sligo, then there must not be anything there!
Interviews were not easy to come by for a returning medic in those days, and being in need of a job I set off own the road to Sligo.
It was a beautiful day and I love driving so I happily set of on a journey of discovery. As I approached Sligo, travelling on what is now part of the Wild Atlantic Way, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. Benbulben rose majestically on my left while the atlantic coastline was nothing short of magical on my right. I drove on in disbelief as to how I had never driven on this road before. I had travelled in more than 50 countries, driven the Big Sur in California, the Garden Route in South Africa and the Amalfi Coast, and now here, on this small stretch of coastline, on the Northwest of Ireland, I was reduced to tears of gratitude in the summer sunshine. This was my country. I was home.
Thankfully I got the position in Sligo where I remained for almost 20 years, until my retirement in 2014. I loved my job, I had great colleagues and made wonderful friendships. I was in the privileged position where my I could use the many skills I had gained abroad, for the benefit of my local community, and I know there are people alive in Sligo today because of me.
Somehow, I knew when I arrived in Sligo that I was 'home'. For a Dubliner that's a strange thing to say perhaps. But home is where the heart is and I fell in love with Sligo on that day in 1995. The love affair continued as I sought out my 'home' home. Driving around this beautiful county, looking at all the stunning places one could possibly live, was a joy in itself. Needless to say, my home found me. I'm a country girl at heart, the happiest days of my childhood were spent on a farm in east Galway, and my antennae were always raised for somewhere that would inspire those same feeling of peace and freedom that I had experienced by being in the countryside. I knew that was what I wanted - a feeling, not just a house.
While on my evening walk, down a secluded cul-de-sac near where I was already renting, I noticed a small opening I hadn't been aware of previously. I hopped over a broken gate, and made my way up an overgrown lane. Suddenly, there in front of me, was an old, ramshackle cottage, almost completely hidden in the undergrowth, ... straight out of my childhood fantasies! All I saw was the whitewashed walls, the red door and windows, the yellow roses, the orange lillies, the masses of red fuschia .... I could hear the bees, and the birds, and the silence. I sat down on the only available clearing in the wildly overgrown 'garden' and smiled happily. This was it. I had found my perfect home.
And, miraculously, it was for sale!
It took a few years, a lot of imagination and hard work to get it as it is now, and it is still work in progress, but I know I will never leave my little corner of heaven. Home is definitely where the heart is. When I sit in the garden or the sunroom, or on the swing, my heart sings with gratitude. I ask myself every day, how did I get to be this lucky?
Sligo for me is the Land of my Heart's Desire where I Set my Spirit Free.
The lesson here, is follow your heart. My marriage did not survive. My husband was not from this country and did not understand my passion for Ireland and what makes me/us tick! We parted amicably many years ago and he is now pursuing his passion for travel and writing in some other part of the world. I have now been in a wonderful relationship for the past 15 years, with Brendan, a true, big-hearted Irish man, 'getting up and going' each day, with passion and purpose.
I am in no doubt as to why this county was the source of inspiration for WBYeats, why Queen Maeve is buried on top of Knocknarea, and why everyone who visits falls in love with something about it, the music, the landscape, the mountains, the rivers, the lakes ... the wild atlantic. We are island people and we connect with our ancestors here, with their passion, their purpose, their inspiration, their beliefs and their magic.
I invite you all to visit Sligo, and connect with your own passion and purpose.
Our 3rd Annual Get Up and Go Event takes place in the Knocknarea Arena April 21/22.
Get Up and go with Passion and Purpose.