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Elizabeth McRobert writes...

Thanks for the opportunity to introduce myself.

I was born and grew up in Belfast, which in many ways still feels like home. The Troubles began as I entered my teenage years and so when it came time to go to university I moved to Dublin and studied medicine at Trinity.

While there I acquired not only a medical degree but my husband, Desmond Leddin, who is from Limerick. So I have known Limerick for many years but I never had the opportunity to live there until we moved back from Canada for two years starting in 2017.

Following graduation in 1980 we moved to Canada for residency training at Queens in Ontario. I completed postgraduate training in Paediatrics and Des did his in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

The Canadian immigration office was always keen to know when we were going back to Ireland, but we had grown used to Canada and wanted to stay. In 1987 in the middle of one of the worst winters on record we found ourselves moving to Newfoundland to secure permanent residency in Canada. That winter there was 5 meters of snow. We did not discover that the house that we moved into had a front path until the snow finally melted in June.

In 1989 with two kids in tow we moved back to the mainland, to Halifax in Nova Scotia and have stayed happily in new Scotland ever since. It’s a wonderful place to live and feels in many ways culturally like Northern Ireland which is perhaps why I feel so at home. Halifax has a population of about 500,000 and four Universities. We live about 100 meters from the sea but only 30 minutes’ walk to downtown.

For the first eight years in Halifax, I worked as a neonatologist at the University Hospital and then I made a switch to general paediatrics in a community practice. It was a very rewarding career and great to see the little ones grow up. The greatest compliment was when one little girl presented me with a stick figure drawing of me, stethoscope and all, and told me she wanted to be Dr. McRobert when she grew up.

As our children got a little older and more independent, I wanted to slow down my practice a little, and the links with Limerick had begun to grow. UL had started a medical school and my husband started to teach there. We were back three times a year and it made sense for us to get our own place.

On one occasion my aunt was visiting from Belfast and Des was busy at UL. We went, just for fun, to see an unfinished apartment at the Strand. It was a concrete shell with “Up the Dubs” spray painted on the wall but the view over the river and the Castle and Sarsfield Bridge was spectacular. After a certain amount of negotiation, we were able to buy it and we had an interesting year of supervising builders trans Atlantically to get the apartment built the way that we wanted it.

The apartment is glass on three sides, and we were concerned that it could get very hot in the summer. My husband, who used to have a fine head of hair but no longer does, and I went to see a contractor at one of the hardware stores. I asked him if they sold air conditioners. He misheard my Northern accent and thought I said, “My husband is wondering if you sell hair conditioners?”. He took one look at my formerly hirsute husband and said, “Why would he need it?”. It turns out that we do need air conditioning and several days a year the temperature can be uncomfortably hot. I have been known to cook dinner wearing sunglasses.

The view from our balcony. It never gets tired. The river constantly changes.

We moved back to Limerick when Des was interim head of the medical school in 2017. It was a very busy time for him, and I felt just a little bit isolated despite having all his relatives around the city. His predecessor, Mike Larvin’s wife Keyna, mentioned to me that there was a group called the International Women’s Organization. I am inclined to be a bit shy. She told me there was a coffee morning every Thursday, so I went to the first one a little hesitantly. It was in Raheen, and I accosted several people who had nothing to do with the IWO. I had the time wrong! After that inauspicious start I was glad I stayed on. Val, Inez and the gang turned up. I have particularly enjoyed relearning how to play mah-jong on Wednesday mornings at Lin’s. The monthly meetings at the library took me to parts of the city I had never been before. I enjoyed coffee mornings at people’s houses. It was interesting to see what modern Irish homes were like. The girls were a great resource when plumbers electricians etc. were needed and provided very useful advice on important matters such as where to get a pedicure. I really enjoyed the few craft sessions I attended at Mary Rose’s and the monthly Shanghai sessions. At this stage I feel I have more friends in Limerick than Halifax, the city I have lived in for 30 years. A testament to the worth of the IWO.

We came back to Halifax in 2019 and we anticipated coming back to Limerick regularly and spending up to six months a year there. Covid had other ideas and it was two years before we were able to return. Hopefully the visits back to Limerick will become more frequent but the arrival of a grandchild in 2021 has changed the dynamic yet again.

Looking forward to renewing old acquaintances and making new friends on future visits to Limerick.

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