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Bringing it all back home

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HAPPY FAMILY Ian McCabe with Lindsey Bellosa-Mcabe, their sons Tadhg, Oscar and Arthur, with Granny Carla Bellosa, visiting from the US, during May 2019.

Clare Island

Áine Ryan

NOT only does he know all about remote living, this islander and physicist Dr Ian McCabe knows all about remote working. And his advice to anyone thinking of moving from the big shmoke to a more rustic – even island – setting is: “Get yourself a good comfortable pair of wellingtons and be prepared to get involved.”
Ian McCabe may have gone across the fields, figuratively speaking, to the little school on Clare Island where his mother taught but he managed to end up doing his PhD at the Department of Bioengineering in Syracuse University, New York. Well, he had done his primary degree in NUI Galway where he met his American wife, Lindsey Bellosa.   
The couple left Ireland in 2007 after they finished their studies at NUI Galway and moved close to Lindsey’s family in upstate New York. The plan at the time for Ian was to do a Masters Degree and get some job experience before returning to Ireland in maybe ten years or so but the offer of a Research Fellowship in a BioPhysics Lab studying cellular structures led to the PhD.
“Then, in the middle of all of my studies we started a family. I finished my research in 2015 when Tadhg was five, Oscar was two, and we were expecting Arthur. We had decided to try Ireland again for a few years so between April and July 2015 we sold our house, I finished and defended my dissertation, shipped all of our worldly possessions to Ireland and said goodbye to New York and moved back home to Clare Island,” explains Ian.
McCabe now works managing an EU-funded project that assists small companies to adopt cutting edge technologies in the medical device sector.
“There is a consortium spread across five countries working with 70 companies so there had been a lot of travel before lockdown. Luckily we had already been using Zoom and the other video conferencing tools well in advance of lockdown so have been able to transition smoothly into exclusively virtual meetings. I have been doing my work remotely from Clare Island since 2016 so lockdown hasn’t changed much about my daily routine. Nothing is likely to change for me until the international travel advice changes, so for now I’m happy to work away on the island.”

Isolating winter
From a practical perspective though, lockdown on the island came at the end of a very long and isolating winter.
“The constant storms last winter had disrupted half of the scheduled ferries up to the end of March and the island had just dealt with a mumps outbreak. In a sense we were well prepared for the lockdown: store cupboards were full and the realities of how easily a virus (even with vaccinations) can be transmitted had been seen first-hand. The first week or two were quite nervous times on the island but once it was clear that no one here was getting sick it began to feel like a very safe place to be,” Ian McCabe continues.  
Luckily, lockdown coincided with a dramatic improvement in the weather and the arrival of the spring lambing season.
“So while the rest of the country and world were sheltering in place, the island children had freedom and something exciting to distract from the dreadful news in the wider world.”
Ian says that lockdown has been hard for Lindsey whose family lives in New York and Florida, with both areas hit badly  by Covid-19.
“Not being able to see her family this summer has been difficult for all of us and the children especially cannot wait to see their grandparents again when restrictions are lifted.”
On a positive note though leaving lockdown for their first visit to the mainland after five months led to this conclusion:“The consensus after our day trip to Westport was that we have everything we need right here on Clare Island.”