What started as a move to provide better opportunities for their children blossomed into so much more.
Fifty years ago, Ann and Jim McGeown moved from Belfast to New Zealand, and settled in quaint Oamaru with their six children- Cathy, Paul, John, Jim, Ann and Eugenia.
At the time, their Northern Ireland hometown was experiencing riots, and the couple wanted to keep their children safe.
They set off from Ireland on October 18, 1970 by boat, and it took them six weeks to reach New Zealand.
After arriving in New Zealand in December, Jim McGeown told the Oamaru Mail the peace and quiet of Oamaru was one of the things they most appreciated about their new life.
“You can go to bed without worrying about where the trouble is going to break out next, or if you are going to be woken up and told to put up a barricade,” he said.
Jim died nine years ago and was remembered fondly on Saturday, when 60 family members gathered together in Oamaru to celebrate 50 years in New Zealand, Cathy Lawrence (nee McGeown) said.
Just Eugenia was missing from the family gathering in person – but they had a cardboard cut-out of her – and it was a “very noisy, and very fun” get-together for the extended family, Mrs Lawrence said.
The sacrifice her parents made to provide her and her siblings with the lives they had today was something she could never imagine doing, she said.
“I’m so close with my siblings and I cannot imagine up and going to the other side of the world and not knowing if you’ll ever see your family [again].
“When we’ve all got our own kids now – that’s when the sacrifice stands out. It was an adventure when you’re a kid … it’s just snowballed, it’s been amazing.”
They were welcomed to North Otago with open arms, and were in debt to the community for the way they had been treated.
“When we first came here we were really lucky. I think we were a novelty to start with, but Oamaru really looked after us really well, and always have.
“We’ve all done really well in our jobs and we give back to the community, and to me it’s amazing that our parents did that for us because of the Troubles.”
She described her mother as the rock of the family, who would do anything for anybody.