Generation Green: Louis Convery, 21
News10 March 2021
TAFE Student in Bush Regeneration
My dad Kieron Convery was born and raised in Ireland.
Mother (and Father) Country
Because my dad grew up in Ireland I have an immediate connection to the country and have always felt the family ties. Dad was a child of the sixties, born in ‘61, and had three sisters; although the family moved around the country, he spent his teenage years in Dublin. Our branch of the family in Australia has always remained involved with the Irish family - as much, if not more so, as my other Aussie side. We all skype at Christmas; my Irish cousin came out here before he got married, then we flew over there for the wedding. We all stay connected.
My mother’s Irish ancestors, the Fennell’s who came from Limerick, originally emigrated here in the early 1800s and started running sheep out in Brewarrina (nicknamed ‘Bre’), in northern New South Wales. I know that my great-grandfather went to school in Sydney, then had a farm near Inverell, where the extended family could live in times of economic recession. I love the idea that he was a stockman: I have always shared that connection with the land. That branch of my heritage is still out there.
The green or the gold
There are different cultural aspects to being an Aussie with an Irish dad, instead of the standard issue Australian father.
Growing up, whenever he couldn’t get us to do this or that, there were lots of “for feck’s sake” and “jaysus”. He also uses little Irish expressions like, “what’s the sceal?” When we watched shows such as Father Ted, or Damo & Ivor, an RTE comedy about identical twin brothers separated at birth, I’d recognise some of dad’s Dublin slang.
Both cultures get on so well because they are so laid back: both the Aussies and Irish love a bit of cheeky banter and having a drink with their mates. The attitudes in both countries are aligned in many ways, yet still slightly different. I don't like to make generalisations, but I think it’s fair to say that bush Aussies can be a bit prickly and hold people at arm’s length, whereas most Irish people are usually up for a bit of fun and ‘craic’. In my experience, Australians can be a bit more understated, while the Irish are straight to the point: cut the crap and tell it how it is!
Growing up I felt both Irish and Aussie. We were split up from Ireland by geography, but not by blood. When I went to the rugby, I didn’t know if I should support the green or the gold, and I still don't.
I do enjoy the attention that I get being Australian in Ireland. When I speak to my cousin Rob on Skype he points out the different Aussie phrases that make him laugh: ‘you beauty’, ‘too easy’ and ‘no worries’ are his favourites, and he loves ‘sheila’ and ‘bloke’ too. He sometimes puts on the Aussie strine, saying, “I’m gonna take the 442 to the QVB mate,” as if he was back on a visit to Sydney. In return, I have picked up some schoolboy level Irish, like, “An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas (can I go to the bathroom)?” When Rob came out with his now wife, he and my dad would often joke around in Irish, so I picked a little up.
Each St Patrick’s Day we celebrate with a Skype call to Ireland and a couple of pints. As kids we always used to go to the parades and visit the Irish stalls set up at Hyde Park. That was the first time I tried black and white pudding: I remember freaking out when I discovered that it was made from blood! Our family doesn’t cook the full on traditional Christmas dinner, which doesn’t suit 35-degree weather, so we do the toned-down Aussie version. Whiskey is a staple in this household though; my dad and I both love it.
I am torn between the opportunities that are on offer in both countries. That’s the tyranny of distance and how far away each country is from the other.
I only wear my Akubra hat here in Australia, when I go bush, which I love to do. I don't wear it in Sydney or I’ll look like a concrete cowboy. My dad really likes getting out into Australia’s natural settings and that has rubbed off on me. Even though we live in Balmain, near Sydney’s city centre, I have always aspired to be a bushie.
I want to do a Bachelor Of Environmental Science and try a season of jackarooing on a station up in Australia’s Top End. Ultimately, my dream job is to be a park ranger. One day, I’d love to have my own acreage in the bush: a little spread that I could do my own thing on. I have had a practice run helping a friend set up a farm - putting the fences in, working the horses and taking them out for a ride.
I am really drawn to Australia’s big spaces and country towns, and getting away from it all. There is nothing like going bush in my favourite Australian season, Spring - before it gets too hot. All the wattle comes out and the gum trees look so beautiful under a big open sky. If I was hosting an Irish cousin in Australia, I would start with the neigbourhood spot where my family live: Balmain. It is so close to the city yet still has a village look and atmosphere. We could go for a dip at ‘Dawnies’ (the Dawn Fraser swimming baths in the harbour), then take the ferry into town and be back in Balmain for sunset. I would also love to take them into the country and go camping under the stars.
The Aul Sod
The first thing that struck me about going back to Ireland is how easy it is to get around - the distances amazed me.
Growing up in Australia we have space and more space, so I had to get my head around the fact that you can travel to a different city in a single day.
I was also really struck by the famous ‘craic’ in Ireland: wherever you go and whoever you talk to, there will be fun and shenanigans going on. I love a pint in Dick Mack's pub in Dingle on the west coast, which has plenty of live music; I had one of the best steaks of my life in Murphy’s out in Ballyferriter. I still dream about it!
I love nature and all things rural, so I really connect with that both here in Australia and in Ireland’s beautiful wild west. I am drawn not just to the picturesque beauty but the way of life: no-one is in any rush to get things done and living is the most important thing. In Ireland, certain places stand out. The gaelic speaking village of Ballyferriter in County Kerry; the stunning Three Sisters coastal walk, alongside three peaks and angled rock formations. I loved this remote, wild coastline, only a few hours from the nearest city. In Australia, you could be driving all day to reach such a scenic coastal outpost; rural distances are so different to Ireland.
The one thing that is hard for an Aussie used to ochre dirt and bush heat to adjust to is Ireland’s climate.
My Irish relatives laughed at how shocked I was by rain every other day in the middle of summer. I have always daydreamed about moving to Ireland, but the winter weather would be hard to handle. The place is in my blood though, so I will always check back in. I am so lucky to have my Irish passport; after Covid slows down I’ll be raring to go.