By Bonnie Klap
Mr. Kevin O’Malley, husband of Ambassador Mary Whelan of Ireland, warmly welcomes us in their residence in Wassenaar. He comes across as easygoing, friendly and knowledgeable, not entirely surprising, given the fact that he has sailed the world seas for decades and, in a positive way, has “seen it all.” This Navy-man has visited a vast number of countries and seems to thoroughly enjoy living in Holland. When I gently prod him to name a favorite Dutch town or city he has visited, he diplomatically refuses to name one in particular.
“We have explored as many towns and cities as time permitted and a lot of it by bicycle. We made it a point to visit a different place every weekend and what strikes me is that this supposedly is a crowded country, but it just doesn’t seem that way. Everything is so orderly and you have such beautiful cycle-lanes here, they are no doubt the envy of the world. Granted, the cities are bustling, but that’s the way they are supposed to be. People are very friendly and the Dutch have a reputation for frankness, but I find that refreshing,” according to Mr. O’Malley. He does admit to being particularly impressed by Delftshaven, because of its maritime history.
“But then again, I also like Maastricht, the islands Texel and Schiermonnikoog and even Schiedam, where you can find some beautiful canals and interesting little houses,” he quickly adds.
It is evident Mr. O’Malley really enjoys living in Holland, but surely, there must be something he dislikes about Holland, I ask him?
“Well, I do have one pet-peeve about The Netherlands. The people all speak such excellent English, that it is very difficult to learn to speak Dutch. I wish I had studied harder to learn the language, but then again, even if I had studied very hard, after 10 years my level of Dutch would still not be the same at that of the Dutch natives. If you are inclined to be lazy, this is no place to be lazy, because you won’t learn Dutch,” he answers.
Mr. Kevin O’Malley was born and raised in Massachusetts, USA. He went to naval college and joined the US-Navy and later the merchant navy, working mostly in the Pacific. He is married to Ambassador Whelan for close to forty years and the couple has two daughters and two granddaughters.
“My career somehow fit easily with that of my wife. Of course the downside was that I was away most of the time. The good part was, that when I was home, I was home for 4 months at a stretch and then I got to catch up,” according to Mr. O’Malley, who, incidentally will be flying back to the USA the next day to attend a reunion of the Boston Marine Society and later on will celebrate Thanksgiving in the US.
In The Netherlands Mr. O’Malley is an active member of the ASA , the Ambassador’s Spouses Association.
“I’m glad it is called the Ambassador’s Spouses Association here in The Netherlands. During our time in Geneva, where my wife was Ambassador, it was called the Ambassador’s Wives Association. I prefer this gender-neutral name in The Netherlands,” Mr. O’Malley explains.
I ask him to share his parting message with the readers.
“ I would like to tell every newly arrived spouse: Get out there and see as much as you can. Every town here, big or small, has treasures. Time flies, so don’t miss a thing. Explore everything, if possible by bicycle. The cycle paths are very safe. And don’t wait! It’s magnificent out here,” he concludes.