Living Leeside: ‘I didn’t think Cork was for me... now I’m happy here’

Kiwi Samuel fell for his husband Jason not long after meeting him, but it wasn’t quite love at first sight with Cork City, he tells Roisin Burke
Living Leeside: ‘I didn’t think Cork was for me... now I’m happy here’

Samuel McKinlay, 44, first came to Cork 18 years ago after a ten-week romance with Jason, who he met while Jason was working and travelling in New Zealand.

A WHIRLWIND romance with a Cork man 18 years ago, brought New Zealander Samuel McKinlay to the Rebel County but, while he fell in love with husband Jason O’Sullivan quickly, his love for Cork was more of a stumble.

Samuel, 44, first came to Cork 18 years ago after a 10-week romance with Jason, who he met while Jason was working and travelling in New Zealand.

Although the pair quickly found themselves in a solid relationship, Samuel discovered he was not initially a fan of Cork’s close-knit community.

“My husband, Jason, was managing a number of popular bars in Cork at the time, and we couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into someone who knew him. People knew who I was before I knew them. There was no such thing as a quiet dinner for two. It would always become a dinner for six or something like that.”

Samuel gave it six months before admitting defeat.

“I told Jason, I hadn’t thought it through and I didn’t think Cork was for me.”

Thankfully instead of breaking up, Jason suggested the pair move to London, which would be new ground for both of them and Samuel would be able to live with greater anonymity.

After 12 years in London, with many trips back for family occasions with Jason’s relations, Samuel eventually found favour with all that Cork had to offer.

“Cork is small and everyone knows everyone. I hated it when I first moved here but, over time, you begin to live with it and sometimes reap the benefits of it.”

The New Zealander — who lives in the city with his husband and their two rescue Yorkshire terriers, Bilbo and Hetty — now quite enjoys his Corkonian lifestyle.

Both Samuel and Jason work in upmarket restaurants on Washington Street, Samuel at Paradiso and Jason in Liberty Grill.

When not working, Samuel enjoys playing tennis, a sport he took up three years ago after impulsively buying a tennis racket while on a trip to Kerry.

“We were in the Nike Factory one day and we just bought rackets. We didn’t use them for ages and then my friend, Jean Kearney, asked me to play, to fill a space most likely, and I just loved it.

“I play tennis at the Sunday’s Well Tennis Club. This is the thing I look forward to the most throughout the week. Not just the exercise, but the social aspect satisfies me equally.

“My doubles team is made up of four different individuals, so I get a very broad perspective on the city and what’s happening or upcoming, over coffee afterwards.”

Aside from tennis, Samuel also enjoys walking his dogs around Bells Field, The Marina or the Lee Fields.

“Having a very public-facing job, I tend to spend a lot of my spare time with my dogs.

“I’m content with bike rides to the Lee Fields or The Marina, and walks to The Glen and watching sunsets on Bells Field. If I could play tennis all day, I would.”

One of Samuel’s best memories in Cork is when his mother over to visit him.

“My best memory would be from when my mum came to visit me. It was on her bucket list to visit Ireland. It was simply showing her around the city/county but, to her, I was giving her an insight to my life here.

“It’s one of her best memories ever. She fell in love with Cork.”

While Samuel is happy in Cork, he does miss home and the relations he has there.

“I miss my family. Since my father passed away three years ago, the desire to go home more often is bigger than ever. Now is just not the time to travel for me.

“I miss my favourite sweets too.”

Samuel says his in-laws are very supportive and kind and often keep homesickness at bay.

“I have a very loving family of in-laws supplying me with endless reasons not to be homesick.”

Turning his attention to the native Corkonian, Samuel said that the social side of locals was truly admirable.

“Cork folk would rival the most social of our species. Always up for the craic, and always keen to keep the party going — very much like Kiwis. The people I have come across have the same strong Kiwi work ethic and aren’t afraid of hard work.”

Although Samuel has a lot of reasons to stay in Cork and make it his forever home, he said he wasn’t sure what the future held for him.

“The idea of moving back to New Zealand excites me and terrifies me in equal measures. My mum back in New Zealand weighs heavily on my mind, and the decision to stay or leave will not be an easy one,” he says.

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