IF you’re Irish and you head into the Kirkstall Hotel, chances are publican Tony Houlihan will make you sign a map of Ireland.
Mr Houlihan said he has seen an influx of people from the Emerald Isle coming to the bar in the past year as Ireland’s economy continues to struggle and more Irish people try their luck in Australia.
On a Friday night the hotel fills up with a mix of locals and Irish newcomers.
Mr Houlihan said Kirkstall’s Irish heritage has enticed plenty of expatriate workers to come in for a pint.
“They are a lot of fun,” he said. “I remember the first few times a group of lads started to come to the pub. I made the comment to the locals that their Irish cousins had arrived.
“From then on everyone has gotten along famously and even a few romances have blossomed between the Irish and Aussies.
“I think a few of them are here to stay.”
The pub displays an Irish flag that is covered in the signatures of Irish men and woman who’ve enjoyed the pub’s hospitality.
Mr Houlihan said he also has a large map of Ireland on which he gets the Irish visitors to mark their home town.
“The map has been a very interesting thing,” he said.
“When they sign it they often spot someone from their area back home.”
Melissa Nesbitt is among those who have signed the map.
She arrived nine months ago from Castlederg, in County Tyrone, and is on work placement for her agricultural studies at a dairy farm in Koroit.
Today she will milk the cows before heading into Warrnambool with her Irish mates.
“Ireland won the Six Nations rugby so we have a lot of celebrating to do,” she said. “If I was at home we would head down south, maybe to Dublin or Donegal, and go to a festival. It’s a whole week of celebration.”
Miss Nesbitt is heading back to Ireland at the start of April but hopes to see the Great Barrier Reef before she leaves.
“It’s been good here. It’s been busy and I’ve learnt a lot. I will get back hopefully.”
Australia’s favourable economic conditions have encouraged Irish migration since the global financial crisis and Australia is now the third most popular country for permanent Irish migrants after the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Warrnambool’s Irish pub, the Seanchai, started celebrations on Thursday, with an unofficial St Patrick’s Day long weekend.
Co-owner Josh O’Dowd said the bar is also gearing up for a big day today with live music and Magners Irish Cider promotions.
“Live music will start from 6pm,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“Mick Ferguson will play from 6-9pm and The Alpha Tides will play from 10pm-1am.”
Pub stalwart Bernie O’Keefe will also down his