Hugo Straney
Hugo Straney

From Belfast to Canada

To celebrate Canada Day, we caught up with Hugo Straney – the voice of the Irish Community in Canada!

Originally from West Belfast, Hugo left for Canada in 1974 at the height of the troubles when he was only 17. For the last 40 years, he has been an entertainer, singer, MC and cabaret artist and for the past 35 years he has produced and broadcast his own radio show in Toronto called the Hugo Straney show – a magazine type show – interviewing Irish people – hence the voice of the Irish Community in Canada!

Hugo is very involved in the Irish community in Toronto and an active member of the diaspora in Canada. Anything that’s happening, he’ll promote it and that includes home! “Promoting the north of Ireland on my show always get number one priority, that goes without saying.”

Hugo makes a point of coming back home for holidays and to re-live what he left here. “I got up nice and early the other morning and went to a local bakery and had half a buttered bap and a coconut finger! It has to be buttered!”

Being back this year for a holiday I’ve seen a seismic change here. There’s something happening here and it’s crazy. I can’t put my finger on it but whatever it is…it’s coming and it’s big and it’s brilliant! There’s just something about the people from this part of the world. What is it about us? I’ve yet to see a t shirt that says Kiss me I’m Belgian…I’m not saying we’re better than anybody but the hospitality here in this part of Ireland – maybe it’s because we’ve had to try so hard, it’s earned and it hits different.

Hugo Straney
Hugo Straney

Hugo’s adamant that you won’t get any place more authentic that Northern Ireland. “It’s real here and for all that it is, for all that has happened, it’s just an amazing, authentic place to be. In Belfast you’ll never get lost – there’s always someone to help you. It’s a big city with a small-town feel."

"The only time I used to get homesick was when I used to pick people up from the airport but more recently I’ve gotten more homesick. This year I’m really homesick! I might consider moving back home. The dream of the immigrant is that when you get to that certain age to come back, get a wee cottage in the Glens of Antrim. I would like to come back next year and arrange a trip for my son, his Canadian wife and the grandkids. My children have been here many times, but I want my son’s wife to see this and my grandkids to see this. Want them to see their heritage."

What makes Hugo most proud of his connections to Northern Ireland is the simple fact that it’s his birthplace and it will always be his home. “I cherish this place. I wouldn’t let anybody say anything derogatory about here. For the good the bad and the indifferent."

"I have to say it’s not all ulster fry’s here – so many lovely places to eat here – Anthony Bourdain used to go around the world he reckons some of the best food in Japan is found in 7-11 stores – I had a sandwich in a Centra and it was fantastic! Do you know what Canadians would love about here? You can do your washing at the petrol station!!”

“Northern Ireland’s greatest export is the people – if you’re in a mall or out somewhere and you hear a Northern Irish accent, you strike up a conversation – it’s what unites us. I’ve been told I haven’t lost my accent and I always say, ‘I haven’t found a better one’!”

“The sun has come up here and let’s hope it continues to shine on Belfast and Northern Ireland!”

Tune in to hear Hugo's radio show: Irish / Scottish | Chin Radio Multicultural | Toronto

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