From the Gold Coast to the City of Culture

Rosaleen McLaughlin, seated front, with her sister Kathleen, brother Malachy, centre, and brother in law Thomas Cassidy. (DER3813PG010)
Rosaleen McLaughlin, seated front, with her sister Kathleen, brother Malachy, centre, and brother in law Thomas Cassidy. (DER3813PG010)

One of two Derry winners in the City of Culture/Etihad Bring Someone Home competition, has spoken of her sheer delight at winning the trip.

Rosaleen McLaughlin, who will celebrate her 60th birthday while home, had actually come second in the competition. This despite the fact that members of the McLaughlin family from Australia to the USA voted regularly on the City of Culture Facebook public vote.

Speaking from her sister Kathleen’s Waterside home yesterday, Rosaleen said: “I finished second in the public poll and thought that was that. I was beside myself when Etihad said they would also fly me home. It is great to be back.”

In excess of 20,000 votes were cast in the competition. Petrina Cassidy topped the poll, she was also flown home from Australia.

The McLaughlin campaign was spearheaded by Rosaleen’s niece Megan Coyle. “Megan told us some of her friends had mistakenly voted for Petrina as their family name is Cassidy.”

The McLaughlin family were so delighted to have their sister home that more than 30 people awaited her arrival at Foyle Street bus station. Rosaleen said: “I want to thank everyone who voted. Special thanks go to Joe Durnan who collected me in a limousine. It was great to arrive to that reception.”

Sister Kathleen confessed that family members bearing signs and placards had actually cheered and greeted the Belfast bus as it arrived - but Rosaleen was actually on the Dublin service!

Rosaleen revealed after emigrating to Australia it was to be 22 years before she returned home again. “It was more expensive then but this is actually my second trip home in 2013. My oldest sister Marion died in March so that was a special trip home. This visit will be much more celebratory there are the culture events, my sixtieth birthday and Megan has organised a special thank you party for this Friday evening. Of course I’ll have to get over my jet lag first. I’ve just been in recovery mode since arriving.”

With trips home few and far between Rosaleen is determined to make the most from this opportunity. “Who wins a holiday home? I’m just over the moon. You miss your family most when you are away but I never miss the Derry weather. My thanks to Etihad Airways and City of Culture who very graciously gave us this prize for coming second. It’s just great to be home.”