Annual visit of Sandy Hill’s son, Nollaig Walsh

Bob Whitelaw

Nollaig Walsh, his wife Hanna Park and son Yule visited the Walsh family home on Russell Ave. this summer.
Photo Bob Whitelaw

Summers in Sandy Hill provide an ideal opportunity for families and friends to reunite and reconnect with their neighbourhood roots. This is especially true for those who live abroad.

One such visit this summer involved hometown son Nollaig Walsh, his Korean wife Hanna Park, and their young son, Yule, for their annual return to Nollaig’s parents’– Desmond and Lolita – century-old red brick home on Russell Avenue. Sandy Hill is a whopping 10,505 kilometres from his family life and teaching position at Korea University located in Seoul, South Korea. The annual summer visit provides an ideal opportunity to renew his memories of Sandy Hill where he attended elementary school and developed his life-long love for the violin. Every visit, he finds time to use his violin talents to accompany the two Sunday morning masses at St. Joseph’s Parish on Wilbrod Street.

Nollaig’s connection with Sandy Hill runs deep: with early schooling at St. Joseph’s Elementary School (1979 – 1983) and St. Brigid’s; followed by a year at Immaculata High School for middle school; and Canterbury High School, where he entered the arts programs to foster his talent with the violin, which started at age seven. His memories also include awards while performing in the Kiwanis Music Festival. He comes from a family where all five sons had to learn a musical instrument: flute, violin, percussion and cello.

Nollaig recalls that his first volunteer job was delivering IMAGE throughout his Sandy Hill neighbourhood. This experience was later followed by paid delivery of Le Devoir and the Ottawa Citizen.

His academic credentials include a Bachelor of Music (BMus) and Master of Education for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MEd TESOL). Nollaig sought additional music studies and professional violin training at Dalhousie University in Halifax and the University of Western Ontario in London, and at the Vancouver Academy of Music. Highlights included a summer season as a violinist with the National Youth Orchestra in 1997. “I remember the busy schedule and adventure in playing across Canada with performances in seventeen cities,” he recalls. The National Youth Orchestra program was followed by two years of study in Vancouver and membership with the University of British Columbia Orchestra – 1997 to 1999.

Nollaig describes the turn of the millennium as a major turning point in his career and his future when he decided to move to Korea to teach English as a second language. His initial objective was to earn money to pay off his student debts. He admits that his knowledge of Korea at the time was largely limited to watching the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul.

Today, 19 years later, his professional life is based in Seoul as an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Foreign Language Studies at Korea University. While he maintains his interests in the violin and his professional training, his workday involves teaching English to classes of engineers who require competent English language reading, writing, listening and speaking skills to support their major.

For IMAGE readers who are travel enthusiasts or who want to learn more about life in Seoul, Nollaig and Hanna have uploaded a video with English subtitles to YouTube entitled “Living in Korea” produced by the Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) of Korea in July 31, 2016:

A video of Nollaig and Hanna’s current home, where they frequently invite travellers can be seen here:

Nollaig’s multiple nationalities identify him as a true global citizen, with passports from Canada, Ireland, Guyana and Korea. Nollaig, Hanna and Yule returned to Seoul at the end of August.