A very special invitation to a gathering in Ennis is about to go out all over the world to the relatives of one local family. Alice Kerin Flaherty, whose father’s family hailed from Steele’s Terrace, has organised a family reunion in Ennis this summer. She is planning to send Clare Champions to her relatives, wrapped just like her father used to do, to give them a little taste of home before they arrive.
Alice’s father, Joe, was one of 15 children born to John Kerin and Mary Margaret Ryan Kerin. The descendents of those 15 children, who have since settled throughout the world, are to come together in June for a huge celebration in the West County Hotel.
While she cannot be here in person, Alice’s last living aunt, Elsie, who is 98 and living in London, will make an appearance at the reunion with the help of modern technology.
“I always remember my father Joe had a special way of folding The ’Champion and tying it with string. At that time the logo for The ’Champion was a bit further down so you got a nice white bit on top and he would write the address on that and stick the stamp straight on the paper and send it off.
“He sent it all over the world, whoever of his brothers or sisters wanted it and when he was in England, he had it sent to him. I thought we would send them out like he used to. Of course when you could get The ’Champion in London that stopped but now it’s on the internet and our family can keep up that way,” said Alice.
Alice’s daughter, Vanessa, explained that the reunion came about when her own children moved to Australia and met with their cousins.
“They took my son under their wing when he went over first. He has since come back and joined the army and they did the same for my oldest daughter, who is over there now. To return the favour, we looked after the daughter of my cousin in Canberra when she came over here. We had their daughter for Christmas and they had ours.
“It escalated from there and then the Australian branch decided they would re-mortgage everything and take off to Ireland and Europe for about three months.”
Alice added, “We told them about the Gathering in 2013 and then the cousins in Atlanta decided ‘if they’re going, we’re going’. Then the cousins in Scotland and the UK decided they were going and it just escalated from there.”
The 15 children born to John and Mary Margaret went on to have a total of 55 children between them. According to Alice, while many of them moved away, the family always remained close. So far, there are 60 relatives confirmed to attend the reunion, not including spouses, children and grandchildren.
The celebrations will involve a night in the West County, with plans to place a large version of the family tree on the wall. Alice has been gathering family photos recalling their history through the years.
Among them are family portraits and an image of her father, Joe and uncle, Martin among the first Éire Óg team. They are hoping their relatives will bring their own photographs with them to complete the family album. There are also plans to host another event at the Rowan Tree, a place with particular significance for the family.
Vanessa said, “My great uncle Willie’s grandson is Brian O’Neill of the Rowan Tree and some of my relatives, including my granddad and uncle Willie worked in that building when it was a gentlemen’s club so we have a great connection there.”
Joining the celebrations from London will be Alice’s aunt, Elsie.
“We would have loved it if she could have come but we have arranged to have a video chat with her,” Vanessa said.
“My cousin Patrick in London and his twin sisters are going to set it up and do her hair and make-up. She is super sharp.it’s just her walking isn’t great so that’s why she can’t make it.”
Vanessa insists that the idea behind The Gathering 2013 is one that is worth supporting and getting involved with.
“I just can’t get why people would say it’s a negative thing. To have people come and visit your town, to get people coming back who haven’t been back. This is an excuse for them to come here and that has to be good.”
Alice agrees, “All of our relatives are so excited about this. They all want to come here and see Steele’s Terrace, Brady’s Lane, Drumcliffe. They want to see all the places associated with our family.
“When we put up photos on our Facebook page of places in Clare they are all asking us can they go there, like Loop Head Lighthouse. We had a wedding in Knappogue Castle and they nearly went crazy when they saw it.
“These places are all on their agenda when they get here and for those who go on to other parts of Europe, hopefully they will come back and spend more time here. I think this will be brilliant for the town.
“There isn’t a whole lot we can do individually to put things right in the country but we can do a little something for the town and, at the same time, we get to meet all our family.”
Vanessa believes her grandfather would have been thrilled with the idea of the reunion.
“Family was everything to my granddad. If he knew one of his family was coming, he would be cleaning and making sure he had the good cakes in. He loved his family coming home and if he knew this was happening, he would be in his element.”
Alice added, “For me, this reunion is a way of honouring our grandparents because I think they were pretty amazing. My grandfather’s kidneys were affected when he was in the Boer War and he was told when he came back from Ennis he would only have a 50% chance of being able to hold down a proper job. He used to be a gilly, taking people out fishing. As you get older, you realise how amazing these people all were. They were absolutely wonderful people to grow up with. My aunts and uncles were wonderful. My father always said you have two things in life, what you have in your pocket and your family. Friends come and go but family always stay.”