Gathering of the clans

Throughout 2013, Ireland will call home hundreds of thousands of friends and family from all over the world to gatherings in villages, towns and cities.

Anyone with an Irish connection is being urged to visit and rediscover their history. ‘There will be clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events, music and concerts taking place all across the country, all year long,’ says the official Gathering Ireland website.

Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry and, for anyone who went to a Catholic school in New Zealand, reading through the list of Irish clans who are planning reunions (below) is like looking through the names on old school photos.

Some gatherings may be little more than a Guinness or two down at the local pub near where a few family members happen to live. Others seem more grand. The O’Neills, O’Dohertys, O’Donnells, Murphys and Gallaghers appear to be planning full-scale reunions involving hundreds, if not thousands. The Fitzgeralds will have a seven-day tour of Ireland to explore the clan’s ‘glorious past’.

Then there’s the Conroys, Lonergans and Egans, who are not having one-off events but hosting year-long celebrations. Some, like the McMenamins, have sketched a little history to make it easier for the diaspora to see if there might be a family connection:

In 1883, brothers John and Daniel McMenamin, two of the 12 children of James and Nancy (Scanlan) from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, set sail for New Zealand to start a new life like so many young Irish of the time were forced to do.

There’s plenty of advice on tracing your roots, and an invitation to use the services of Ireland’s Association of Professional Genealogists.

The country’s in such a grim economic state  a cynic might say the whole exercise is a desperate attempt to get tourists, particularly the 37 million Americans who claim Irish ancestry, to come and part with their dollars.

On the other hand, the pull to Ireland resonates down generations regardless of whether the country’s in trouble. Sometimes it strikes with surprising force. I’ve just read A Simpler Time, the memoir of Aussie writer, story teller and former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons.

It’s a good read, largely about his childhood. One day he is amazed to hear an uncle say he could barely understand Peter Fitzsimon’s grandfather because his Irish accent was so thick. Fitzsimons writes:

To this point I have never focused on the fact that on one side I was only two generations removed from someone who had lived just under half his life in another country – that I was a latter twentieth-century Australian who had a grandfather who was born in Ireland as long ago as 1863!

To discover where those grandparents came from and to walk the streets and fields they walked just two or three generations ago is a remarkable experience. You couldn’t pick a better time to find out than 2013.

When in 2013 Clan Where in Ireland
All year Conroy Aglish, Co Tipperary
All year Longergan/Egan/Gibbons Cashel, Co Tipperary
February Collins Tipperary town, Co Tipperary
May Maguire Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
May Kelly Cashel, Co Tipperary
May O’Neill Dungannon Armagh, Co Tyrone
June Burke Kilmaine, Co Mayo
June Gould Cork city, Co Cork
June Kane Drumlish, Co Longford
June Fitzgerald Adare, Co Limerick
June Acton Castlebar, Co Mayo
June Murphy Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
July McMenamin Letterkenny, Co Donegal
July/Sept O’Leary Inchigeelagh Macroom, Co Cork
July Curtin Macroom, Co Cork
July Slattery Tuam, Co Galway
July McGrath Ennis, Co Clare
August Fuller Tralee, Co Kerry
August Colleran Athlone, Co Roscommon
August Coughlan Ballydehob, Co Cork
August Gavin Swinford, Co Mayo
August O’Donnell Donegal, Co Donegal
August McCarthy Kinnity, Co Offaly
August Fitzgerald (south Tipperary) Aherlow, Co Tipperary
August McArdle Courtbane, Co Louth
September Crowley Kinsale, Co Cork
September Gallagher Gortahork, Co Donegal
September Goulding Tramore, Co Wexford
October Moriarty Dingle, Co Kerry
October Cronin Milltown, Co Kerry
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