Miriam: Hi this is Lonnie, Loretto.
Loretto: Yep! This is me. Miriam is now going to interview
me. Fire away.
Miriam: Why did you leave Ireland?
Loretto: Well I’ll tell you, I think to be honest am, the
most important question is for me, when did I leave Ireland. Because the truth
is I left Ireland in November 1987. Am, I did not get accepted to college when
you all did because, I didn’t know this at the time, but they forgot to add on
the results of my oral Irish. Do you remember this Miriam?
Loretto: And as far as I was concerned, I had failed Honors
Irish. And you needed Irish back then to get into university. So I packed my
bags, didn’t tell my parents that I was leaving because I thought they would
talk me out of it. Contacted an aunt in America (I said Australia but I was
focused on the wrong continent!) She paid for my ticket. And then when my
parents found out two weeks before I left, sure enough there was a bit of guilt
inducement, am. But I left Ireland in November 1987, intentionally leaving for
good, and I was very bitter, to be quite honest. I was very angry, I was very
upset because I thought that Ireland had been very unfair to me. And am, in
all, in hindsight the truth is it was pure immaturity as well. My twin sister,
Margaret, got into college and I didn’t.
Miriam: But you did not know the basis of your results?
Loretto: No I didn’t. I thought I had failed the Irish, I
felt stupid. I felt like a failure, I felt stupid.
Miriam: How long did you stay away for then?
Loretto: I stayed away, at that point I came and did some
babysitting and cleaned houses, am, and I stayed away for, I think it was
almost a year. And it was the best thing I ever did because I went back to
college and I was loaded. (Laughs) I had so much money!
Miriam: By that point they had rectified the mistake that
they had made?
Loretto: Well then what happened was, about six months after
I got notified by the teacher who had taught Irish, Sheila McLaughlin, that she
had done some investigation and that she had found out they had forgotten to
add on the oral Irish results and that I had gotten an honor in Honors Irish,
so that they were deferring my placement for a year, it was their fault. So I
ended up starting university a year behind everybody else.
Miriam: So when you were done then with university then, why
then did you leave, why did you not stay in Ireland.
Loretto: Why did I leave? Because I got a taste of America
and I wanted to go. I was one of those ….
Miriam: Talking capitalism there!
Loretto: Oh money, money, money!
Miriam: Money, money, money!
Loretto: You know what it was? I saw opportunity. I saw
opportunity and I think, I’ll be very honest with you. You’ll remember that I
went to England for a few months to work with you guys? And I like London, don’t
get me wrong, but the Irish were, in this part of America, they adored the
Irish. The Irish accent was like, am? They were enamored with it. And I loved
that. They really did. And I was really scared in London because the IRA were
going crazy bombing just before Christmas and I, I was ashamed of being Irish
at points. I think I told you that there was a, there was one stage when I was
on a train going to visit Marcella (my sister who lived in Romford, Essex) and
it was supposedly a ‘fast’ train. And we were on it, it was like an hour,
sitting on the tracks not moving because they were diffusing a bomb. Do you
remember that? And this woman sat opposite me and she was going, “Bloody Irish,”
and I was absolutely terrified and I was embarrassed about being Irish, I was
ashamed about being Irish.
Miriam: So then, you found conditions to be better in
America than you did in London or in Ireland?
Loretto: I’ll be honest. I found London good because there
was a paycheck. I liked the independence of living away from home, having
money, but I really, really, am? I missed living in a house. I did not like
living in that small room in the hotel, not at all! I am not a city person,
even though London is a beautiful city. Am, I am not a city person. I’m, ah, I
like to go visit a city, but I like to come home to the country.
Miriam: Now would you move back to Ireland based on that?
Loretto: Am. I certainly will never move back to Ireland.
Miriam: Based on your circumstances here or you just don’t
want to go back?
Loretto: I do not want to go back to Ireland. I remember
when my mother was alive, and we had bought land in Ireland with the intention
of moving back there, like as a summer home or whatever, when we got older, and
she said “Would you not think of coming back for good.” And I said to her, and
this was after, I think this was after about three years of living in America, and
I had been married for year now at that point. I said, “Do you remember how
hard I cried when I was leaving Ireland?” And she said “Yeah,” and I said, “Well
multiply that by ten if I had to come back.” And it is not that I hate Ireland,
and it’s not that I had any animosity towards Ireland. I don’t feel that I was
driven out, but for some reason, in my heart and soul, I knew I was born to
emigrate. I wasn’t meant to stay in Ireland. I felt confined in Ireland. I felt
there were no opportunities for me.
Miriam: Do you not think that that is based on twenty years
ago and today, times have changed?
Loretto: Absolutely not. I think the government has actually
shown us how corrupt it is.
Miriam: But even so, isn’t that based on a small minority? I
mean the people themselves are still the same?
Loretto: Yeah, but the thing is, even though we have a vote…..I
really don’t think…..unless, as you said, unless the people revolt and do
something drastic like what is happening in Egypt or what they did in the
streets of London, not that I am advocating that,
Miriam: Or like in New York at the moment.
Loretto: And they are doing in New York, exactly, I think
that the Irish are very complacent and I think we need to be proactive, now I
think it’s wonderful that we haven’t gone out and kicked down windows of shops
or anything like that. But I think we need to shake up our government. They
need to shake up the government. The government has led the Irish people
astray. And it has used the Irish people as like, a cash cow. And there is an
elitist attitude in Ireland that is so wrong. I mean there’s jobs that are just
cushy jobs and you go into them for life because they are cushy, because you
won’t be worked to death and you’ll have
a good pension for the rest of your life. And I think, you know in all
fairness, certain things that have happened since the boom came to an end, is a
good thing. Other things that were highlighted such as the greed, that was bad.
But I do think that there were certain jobs that were protected in Ireland, for
too long. And that there was a real sense of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who
you know’ that was……
Miriam: But I think that that goes on most places.
Loretto: I don’t think so. Not in America, I really think if
you wanted to be a journalist in America, you could do it. But in Ireland, and
I think too it was because we are an island, we’re insular and we’re isolated
in a way and we have only x number of seats in universities for a huge
population, now maybe that’s changed. But do you remember how competitive it
Miriam: It was competitive.
Loretto: It was very competitive, the pressure was great and
maybe that has changed now but I do remember that the leaving cert itself, the
final exam in secondary school, high school, when we were doing the leaving
cert; One third of the people doing their leaving cert got into university and then
one third of that group actually graduated. Those were the statistics back
then. And if you look at our picture, I hate saying this, but if you look at
our picture Miriam, the statistics were actually, they are accurate. They are
Miriam: I think actually then, based on what you are talking
about is that everyone has a circumstance, everyone has a story. Is that going
back to immigration do you think or is it based on the individual choice? You know
what I mean? We could have stayed in Ireland, gone on welfare and then become
part of the Celtic Tiger.
Loretto: Am, really I don’t. I think am, everything boils down
to choice. But I also think that in your gut, if it doesn’t feel right you simply
won’t do it. And to me, staying in Ireland, my gut instinct said, I cannot do
it. I can’t do it. Now I’m not saying it was easy to leave. And you know there
is one question I need to ask you as well, but I’ll answer it now and then I’ll
ask you towards the end. I forgot to ask you, but I’ll answer it myself now
first. It’s not easy to leave. The advice that I would give to people who are
leaving today is, do not expect Ireland to remain stagnant. It is not going to
not change, and your families are not going to not change. I think the biggest,
biggest shock that I got was three years after being away, I hadn’t been home
for about two years because we were saving money for a house and what have you.
And I went back and my brother Michael came out to the house, and I hadn’t seen
him in two years. To me it was the blink of an eye, and he had gone grey overnight.
And it just….I remember….I remember hugging him in the am, I remember hugging
him in the sitting room, and walking into the kitchen and just crying my eyes
out because you realize; I am getting upset! (Laughs)
Miriam: Well time goes by.
Loretto: As an emigrant, that is the most difficult part of
emigration, you are missing out on an awful lot. And I think, if you can’t
handle that, stay home, because it is a big chunk of your life that you are
giving up. I have missed out on seeing nieces and nephews grow up, get married,
have their own children, I couldn’t be there when my mother was dying, really I
couldn’t be there for certain things that I wanted to be there for.
Miriam: But is that not your own regret as opposed to being
forced out of a country that has no jobs for you. Like at the end of the day,
you’re working here in America, like if you had money, for me we’re close to
Ireland, that if you want to go home, you can go home.
Loretto: But you see for me, I found it easier, because of
that lump in my throat when I saw; I guess the Celtic Tiger for me made it
easier, because things were changing so fast in Ireland, it wasn’t home
anymore. But for those first three years I missed Ireland a lot, and it was
easier for me not to go home that often because I didn’t have to deal with the
homesickness. Do you know what I mean?
Miriam: There’s the difference there.
Loretto: Anne said that she doesn’t understand the
sentimentality of it, but I do, I do. I do understand the sentimentality of it.
My only way of dealing with that is not to go back that often, because
inevitably when I sit on that airplane, when I’m coming home. Kevin will tell
you this, I get very quiet. I can’t talk for about half an hour and then I am
Miriam: Is this coming back from Ireland?
Loretto: Coming back from Ireland, because I know things will change, and it’s not going
to change any differently or that I’ll have any control over it even if I am
Miriam: Doesn’t everybody change?
Loretto: Doesn’t everybody change. And I think it is the
inevitability of, they are going to change, we’re all getting older, and that’s
just the way it is. And you know that’s the biggest part about being an
emigrant. You cannot be there for everything.