One good turn deserves another.
After more than 30 people went from the North Okanagan to visit Armstrong’s sister city of Rathfriland, Northern Ireland, in the fall of 2016, Armstrong and Spallumcheen rolled out the red carpet and welcome mat for three Irish visitors earlier this month.
Guests of honour included Andrew Peters from the Rathfriland Regeneration Committee, and Pauline McCrory and Owen Clarke from the Annaclone Historical Society (Annaclone is about three miles from Rathfriland and the birthplace of Catherine O’Hare Schubert, the common denominator between Armstrong and Rathfriland).
“Last year, we had the opportunity to discover Northern Ireland and learn more of the history of Catherine Schubert,” said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper. “We were able to reverse the roles. We involved members of the Schubert family from around here and showed off what Catherine did here.”
Schubert settled in Armstrong after becoming the first woman to cross Canada overland. A monument to the Overlanders is erected in Kamloops and was part of many tours enjoyed by the Irish trio during their 10-day visit to Canada.
Also included in the week-long stay in the North Okanagan for the guests were helicopter rides, wine tours, spending Canada Day in Armstrong at Memorial Park during Canada’s 150th birthday, a trip to O’Keefe Ranch and attending their first-ever lacrosse game.
“It’s like being home from home,” said Peters, a semi-retired civil servant with the Department of the Economy in Belfast, and a music booking agent, at a welcoming reception for the threesome at Armstrong’s Royal Canadian Legion branch early in the trip. “Everybody has been extremely wonderful. I’m looking forward to sampling the community and enjoying the scenery.”
Pieper drove to Vancouver to pick up the visitors, who enjoyed a couple of days in B.C.’s biggest city, before heading north.
“This is my first time in Western Canada,” said McCrory, a government employee, who has been to Toronto and Niagara Falls. “Everybody is so friendly. It’s like a dream come true. This trip was organized so quickly. To be here, in the sister city…it’s hard to describe.”
Clarke, a construction worker with the strongest brogue of the trio, was a little nervous about spending nine hours on an airplane.
“The longest I’ve been on a plane is about four, four-and-a-half hours,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing things about First Nations and, of course, looking forward to learning about Catherine Schubert and her life here.”
The trip also included a stop at Schubert’s final resting place in Lansdowne Cemetery in Spallumcheen.
It was an excursion that left a lasting impression on the Irish visitors, and solidified the burgeoning bond between the sister cities.
“We are just overwhelmed by the kindness, and the friendships we made, meeting many new people for the first time,” said Peters. “How we could repay everyone, I just don’t know. Everywhere we looked there was just another picture postcard scene. To Mayor Chris Pieper, to (Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce executive director) Patti Noonan and the organizing committee; John and Leigh Trainor and Louise Everett, who hosted us in their homes, and to all the people who travelled a distance for our reunion, we want to say a big thank you.
“It was great to visit all the links to Catherine. We look forward to seeing some of you back in Ireland.”
Armstrong Sister City committee member Jessie Ann Gamble will give a presentation today at 1 p.m. in the Armstrong branch of the Okanagan Regional Library titled Ireland to Armstrong, spinning tales about Schubert’s life before and after the overland months.