Sandra McKeown was born in County Antrim in the Massereene Hospital (named after the now extinct Massereene Barony). The hospital no longer exists and is now a supermarket!
She grew up in the village of Ahoghill (Achadh Eochaille “field of the yew forest”) and went to school in Ballymena (Baile Meánach “the middle townland”) before graduating from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown (UUJ).
Sandra also lived in various other locations in the North of Ireland.
While at university, she lived in Carrickfergus which is famous for its 12th century castle and for one year in Edinburgh, Scotland during her placement (co-op) year from university.
After graduation, she married a fellow student whom she had met in her final year at university. The marriage was not to last however and Sandra immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 2002 where she immediately enjoyed meeting immigrants from many other countries, including people from Ireland who had landed in Canada during previous waves of immigration in the 1960s and 1970s.
Sandra became very aware in time that there was little assistance available to enable new immigrants who were “fresh off the boat” to meet other Irish Canadians in the Toronto area.
In 2006, Sandra created the community group called – The Irish Association of Toronto – to fulfil the needs of new immigrants coming to Canada from Ireland, especially to allow new immigrants to find each other easily via the internet, to facilitate community discussions, and to organise social meetings where people could meet each other in person.
Sandra also reverted back to her maiden name McKeown but after several years of re-discovering the ancient Irish heritage in a new land, she decided to change her name to McEoghain to be closer to the original Gaeilge spelling which means “son of Eoghain” and as she was born an Mc she decided to stay with that.
The Irish Association of Toronto has been a great success for all who avail of the group and what it has to offer to the community in general. The “older” immigrants i.e. people who have been in Canada for more than a year provide continuous help to the new immigrants as they arrive.
Recently, the Association organised a trip with other Irish Canadians to Ireland Park in Toronto in remembrance of the Irish that died in during An t-Ocras Mór, The Great Hunger. Flowers were laid at the bronze statues erected at Ireland Park to commemorate the 1.5 million Irish that died during the 1845-48.
As the Association progressed, Sandra created The Irish Association of Toronto mailing list which allows members or indeed anyone to send a question to all members and everyone is free to respond, creating an open forum.
Sandra believes the Irish Association of Toronto will be a great benefit to the community in the future, especially given that the number of Irish arriving in Canada has seen a rapid increase in recent months.
For further information see www.torontoirishassociation.com