It really is a long way from regional Queensland to Tipperary, a rural town in Ireland. They say Tipperary is “the home of the stranger, where a friendly welcome awaits”.
The Irish must feel the small town of St George replicates that welcoming feel, with more than eight Irish folk calling St George home; whether temporarily or for good. Pamela Heraty and Mark Clancy are two such travellers, with Pamela having returned to the town three times in her 16-month journey around Australia – and she’s looking to stay for good.
Settling in the area happened quite quickly for Mark, who hails from Tipperary in Ireland. He was lucky enough to score a sponsorship with a nearby farmer after a few stints cotton picking and wheat harvesting on various farms in western Queensland.
There’s no doubt that travellers, especially the international kind who stop and stay for a while, add a certain kind of character to the cultural landscape of small towns, and bring a piece of themselves to the everchanging fabric of the community. They weave their way in and out of our lives and leave tales of countries that some of us have never visited. They work in our shops; they babysit our kids; they ask us for directions. And some of them stick around to become locals themselves.
“I wanted to get regional work out of the way early on in my travels,” says Pamela. “Eventually, I got in contact with a farmer in St George, and spent my time pruning and picking grapes.” But she did not count on how much she would fall in love with the people and place. Working in horticultural or agricultural settings for 88 days is a great way for travellers to experience different parts of Australia, while farmers in those industries are able to meet the tough demands of their intense yet seasonal productions.
But it’s her third trip to St George that has Pamela wanting to stay for good. Constantly lured back by the town’s friendly people and relaxed lifestyle, she reckons she’s really one of the locals now and has signed up to the local touch footy team. After trying life as a shift work tractor driver on the 1pm to 1am shift in nearby Dirranbandi, Pamela has all but settled in St George as a waitress in a local coffee shop. “I never thought I’d be working in a coffee shop,” says Pamela, who’s never waitressed previously. “I simply loved it here from day one. A big part of me wants to live in St George forever! Everyone thinks I’m mad but I absolutely love it here, even though it’s so far away from the city.”
“Yeah I love it here as well,” chimes in Mark with his very different Irish accent. Mark sums up the reason he’s permanently made the district home. “Everyone is so friendly and stops to say hello and tell you a story about other Irish people they’ve met. I think every Aussie has an Irish story.”
Words and images by Dana Gluzde