I was born Joanne Mary McPadden, a kiwi with several Irish great grandparents. My ancestors left the Counties of Leitrim, Donegal and Clare and arrived in Aotearoa-New Zealand, settling on the West Coast of the South Island. Their Irish cultural, spiritual and historical influences linger for many generations.
I first lived in New Plymouth by Mt Taranaki, probably travelling on the same train as Jack to Stratford for the St Patrick’s Day athletics. But it was when I was sixteen and a student at St Mary’s College in Wellington that I first knew I was Irish. I read Leon Uris’ ‘Trinity’ and knew deep within that this was so.
Marrying this Doherty man, Jack, 45 years ago remains one of the best decisions of my life. We live and thrive in an ongoing adventure of five adult children, 12 grand children, wonderful families and friends and belonging to Te Wakaiti marae.
We shared Walking to Donegal after Jack’s first steps there. Being alongside him for the multiple steps since, and those about to be taken, is symbolic of our rich life together.
Being from Aotearoa-New Zealand provides me with a unique Pacific and cultural view of this walk to Donegal. Working and living with Māori who are steeped in their culture and know their whakapapa or clan genealogy, has led me to discover my own identity and going ‘home’ to Ireland has enormous momentum because I live here.
I have been known affectionately as Jewarne since writing about living in Donegal and Dublin, in ‘Mind y’self now, Jewarne’, published in 2005. My reflections about this particular Walking to Donegal experience in 2018 will be recorded as Jewarne.