Friday, 13 July 2007


“Aussie Rules” at the Lake of the Shadows

Australian born, Brian Grant, a man with strong local connections is the new manger at the Lake of Shadows Hotel. Brian’s Great Granddad was John Grant of Glenard (known locally as Big John Granny). During famine times, John Grant was a substantial sheep farmer and guaranteed a loan of ₤1,000 to complete the building of Cockhill Chapel. His uncle, Thomas Donegan (married to Bridie Grant) was the Headmaster of the Illies School for 40 years. His father Johnny (from the Glen) Grant went to London with his friend Owen Doherty to work. He had been courting Philomena Ellen Gallagher from Derry before he left. The friends split up, Owen heading for Canada and Johnny to Australia where he got back into his old work and became manager of a sheep farm. Once established, he wrote to his sweetheart asking her to marry him and to join him in his new life. Philomena’s mother was not impressed with this idea – “Why does he want you to go all the way to Australia –can you not meet him half way in London?” Philomena travelled over in the fifties to start a new life and her first experience of Australia was a ten-hour journey in a horse and cart through a flat dusty desert to the wheat and sheep farm that was to be her new home. Used to lush green hills was it any wonder she wanted to come straight home again? After 5 years they moved to Perth to raise their family.

Brian joined the Commonwealth Bank of Australia when he left school and worked there for sixteen years, travelling all over the state of Western Australia working in their 80 branches. Western Australia is huge, over three and a half thousand miles by road. This state could fit Ireland into it 15 times yet only has half of Irelands population.

He visited Buncrana three times during this period enjoying the life and craic of a young man about the town with his cousins. It was these trips that gave him the idea of coming over to spend more time over here.

Meanwhile Brian was growing more discontented with life at the bank. He had enjoyed the life initially as he loves providing customers with good service but the ethos of the bank was becoming more about money and less about the customer. Brian left to set up a restaurant where he met his wife Perla. Perla, originally from the Philippines, was working for Brian. Brian had a strict no dating the staff rule, so he had to sack her to ask her out. After a year they married and had their son Brian John (B.J.)

Their life was enjoyable, both working for themselves (Perla had her own business making ice-cream cakes!). During their leisure time they enjoyed going out in their boat (eighteen foot, half-cabin, fibreglass) for a spot of fishing, usually herring, whiting, snapper, squid, octopus, crabs and lobster. They had to watch out for sharks, as there have been a few sightings off the coast. They could go out most of the year as the weather is very different from here. Australia is the driest country in the world and Western Australia is the second driest state in Australia. The coldest days in the winter (July/August) see the temperature at about 15◦ C dropping to –1oC during the night. It gets dark about 6pm. In the summer (January/February) temperatures can soar to 42-43oC and the sun sets at about 7.30pm. There are water restrictions throughout the summer and most gardens have a water bore (like a well) drilled to pump water up for the plants. Budgies and parrots fly wild and are common visitors to the garden and wild kangaroos bound over the golf courses. (When Brian arrived in Ireland he raised a few eyebrows in the insurance company in Buncrana when asked did he have any previous claims and he told the yes, one, I hit a 6ft kangaroo)!

Brian wanted to show his family Ireland. He felt the environment was safer than city living and believes the education system to be one of the best in the world. On arriving in Buncrana at the end of August he dropped his CV into the Gateway Hotel and was taken on as a chef. After six weeks he was approached to manage the Lake of Shadows. Brian is delighted with this new opportunity. “There is a great team down here at the moment with the return of Head chef Peter Moriarty and Bar Manager John Doherty. We are working on new menus and promoting the Gateway for weddings.” With Brian’s commitment to service and personal attention and his open friendly manner he will do everything he can to make that most special of days perfect. He also wants to improve day-to-day service having his staff give the welcome that Ireland is famous for. Brian would encourage customers to tell the staff if they give good service and to tell him if they don’t.

Brian is very interested in local history and if any Inish Times readers have any pictures or stories about the history of the Lake of Shadows he would love to hear from them. Just drop in or phone and ask for Brian.
Brian, Perla and B.J. initially came over for a year but within a day of being here, B. J. was asking, “Can we stay for 2 years daddy?” B. J. loves the local school and the freedom of playing with the other kids on the estate. Brian loves the fact that B. J. is learning Irish and teaching the language to him. With the way they are settling into the community, they could be around for a long time!

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