Alvaro Mellinas, a PFS Customer Service Representative and a former Spanish Navy sailor originally from Cartagena in South-Eastern Spain, is celebrating 10 years in Ireland today. "I had been wandering most of my life back home in Spain from one city to another and now Kilmessan in County Meath in Ireland is finally the place I love to call home," he explained.
Exactly a decade ago, Alvaro had reached the end of the road of his roaming days after completing the famous Camino de Santiago reflective journey for the second time walking from France to Spain. A month later, he flew from Murcia–San Javier airport on a one-way flight to Dublin with €800 cash in his pocket to start a new life. It amazed him that during the old Celtic Tiger days the Irish would spend €4 on a coffee when the Spanish would spend €4 on a meal! He made a pact with himself that if he found himself with just €200 left he would buy another single ticket and return home to his mama and papa. Thankfully, he found it very easy to find a job and he actually enjoyed the Irish climate after growing up in a scorching region of Spain which is expected to become a desert in the near future. However, it was a big difference from working on navy ships in the Atlantic Ocean, studying Law for three years at the University of Murcia, and IT at a Spanish Institute of Technology.
Alvaro set off on a day trip driving around County Meath one day and ended up getting completely lost until he reached a tiny place named Kilmessan. His first journey through the village had an instant impact on him. The windows of the car were rolled down and as he slowed down to soak up the atmosphere, he heard music. Next thing he knew, he had pulled onto the side of the road as if by auto-pilot and went for a walk to discover where the sound was coming from. It did not take him long to discover the source of the melody - choir practice at the old national school. Alvaro introduced himself to the Choirmaster and the Pianist who wanted to know if he could sing? As anyone in PFS, Navan will tell you, Alvaro loves to sing anything by Julio Iglesias! Just two weeks later, he had relocated to Kilmessan and was the newest member of the local choir. That was two years ago. Since then, he has become even more embedded in the local community by becoming heavily involved in Kilmessan Tidy Towns.
"It is a small tight-knit community of only 700 people and the type of place where everyone has a great opportunity to get involved in something locally. In 2008, Ireland reminded me so much of Spain and I wanted to stay. It reminded me of how my country used to feel in the 1980's. To me, Dublin does not at all feel like a Capital city. It feels more like a big town with a lot of character and friendly neighbourhoods. All of this brought me back to my childhood. Kilmessan is a magical place where amazing things happen."
In 2016, Kilmessan Tidy Towns lost a good friend, Brendan McDonnell, who was in his fifties. Alvaro described him as an inspirational character who was originally from Finglas who always brought the community even closer together. His first memory of getting involved in the tidy towns was with Brendan and other members to transform the old graveyard which was very badly overgrown at the time. Within weeks, there was a 15-strong team restoring the graveyard and its paths to a high standard. Everyone chipped in and machinery was brought in to make the tough work easier. Alvaro used to joke with Brendan that they were both like foreigners from Finglas, County Dublin and Spain!
Alvaro is very excited to speak about the annual fun day which takes place in Kilmessan each August and the legendary local Poc Fada (traditional Hurling and Camogie long puck) event which attracted over 500 men, women, and children. He calls it the pure essence of Ireland from Kilmessan village via fields and fences to the finishing point on the historic summit of the Hill of Tara. "I am a Latino and Mediterranean man who feels a little more Irish every year that goes by. A big part of this has been feeling part of the community."
"The PFS Spanish Team feels like a family. We have a lot of interaction inside and outside of work and we enjoy each other's company both here and away from the building." Interestingly, Alvaro is not the only member of the Mellinas family to have moved to Ireland. His sister, who is a teacher in Dunshaughlin Community College in County Meath, and his 13-year-old niece moved to Kilmessan last year. Unfortunately, his older brother who was born with Cerebral Palsy passed away. It brings Alvaro so much joy to have family nearby once more. From his back garden in the village, he can see the entrance to their home.
My own first introduction to Kilmessan was in 2015 when I was on the hunt for a suitable site in Counties Meath, Dublin or Galway. I ended up having dinner at an enchanting venue called The Station House. One of my group told a wonderful story of how his late father almost bought the former railway station as their family home when he was a young boy. Ironically, Alvaro is a former employee of The Station House where he worked at the front desk. I remember how quaint, otherworldly, and special Kilmessan was on my first visit. Alvaro assures me that it still is - and will be in another 10 years’ time.