Ryan John Quinn – the shepherd hoping to bring home his flock

9 months |

Ryan John Quinn – the shepherd hoping to bring home his flock

Next in Living Away Turning 30 was a pivotal moment. I thought, “do I want to live in Germany for the rest of my life?”

Ryan John Quinn was born and bred in Dundrum, Co Down in the shade of the Mourne Mountains. He now lives with his wife and kids in Germany, working as a shepherd in Lower Saxony. Ryan shares his thoughts on living away, his urge to come home and the considerations that involves.

He now lives in Lower Saxony in Germany and works as a shepherd. 

I left school at the age of sixteen to join the army. Like a lot of young men at that age I was looking for adventure. I joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment. With the army I got to travel the world, having stints in Canada, Cyprus, Bosnia and loads of other places.

Any time we had leave most of the boys went on beach holidays to chase the sun. I always went home to County Down to help my dad with the farm and chase sheep around.

After leaving the army in 1992, I got married and ended up staying in Lemgo, the town in where the Royal Irish were based. I got a well–paid job making lorry cabs. I had loads of friends there in a similar position, so it wasn’t difficult to settle down there. 

In saying that, the craic wasn’t the same and I found Germans to have completely different sense of humour, but like everything you get used to it.

We lived in a nice farmhouse and started a family. I worked from 5.30am to 1.30pm each day. I always wanted my own flock, so I used my evenings and weekends to build my own flock of Scottish Blackface Sheep!  

I began clipping other people’s sheep and training their sheep dogs in any spare time I had and in 2005 I became county champion for North Rhine Westfalen with one of my dogs, Jet.

Things didn’t work out with my then wife and I moved to Lower Saxony where I worked full time as a shepherd, eventually remarrying and extending my family. I started to judge sheep dog trials and since then I’ve been all over Europe doing that. I still judge now and still love doing it.  I’m actually going to the Czech Republic in September to judge.  


The more time goes on the more home calls me. It’s hard to describe. I’ve never really been fully content here and in the back of my mind, I always knew I would want to come home one day. The last few years I’ve felt it more.

I miss the craic and I want my kids to have the same experience growing up as I did – playing on the beach, helping out on the farm etc but as much as I would love to come back, my wife isn’t fully convinced. 

She’s worried she might miss Germany and become homesick. She’s worried that the kids might have difficulty at first in school because their first language is German. Germany’s healthcare system is much better as well. All valid points but they’re not deal–breakers for me.  

I remain hopeful. We spent three weeks back in Dundrum this summer which I think helped my case. We visited friends on the north coast, went to the Castlewellan show and even took part in the sheepdog trials. Although the sheepdog trials didn’t go too well for me, the family had loved it and had a great time.

We enjoyed plenty of family time during the break as well. The kids always had something to do in the mornings and they loved helping out their grandad on the farm in the afternoon. I think my wife might be starting to warm to the idea a bit more. She was asking my brother’s wife about her experience of moving to Northern Ireland from Canada and about the local schools.

People laugh when I say this but it always breaks my heart to look at photographs of Dundrum and the Mourne Mountains after a good holiday at home. Maybe one day, I’ll get to wake up to those views again.

Will it happen? Who knows. We’ve talked about it for the last few years but it’s become more of a theme over the past year. We’re definitely having more conversations about it, so I’m staying hopeful!

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