Reminiscing and repartee at reunion of family of 14

August 12, 2013

The Cross Square Hotel was the venue for a very special occasion on Saturday night when it hosted the reunion of one of Crossmaglen’s largest and most well-known families.

All fourteen siblings of the Murray family – six of whom travelled from America – were joined by extended family and friends to celebrate the occasion, just the second time in 17 years that they have all been together in their hometown.

From the eldest to the youngest – Jim, Margaret (Finn), Alice (Campbell), John, Eileen (O’Brien), Michael, Kathleen (Murphy), Frank, Gerry, Bessie (Gribben), Joan (Boylan), Mary (McGurk), Claire (Finnegan) and Joe – travelled down memory lane, recalling memorable times spent in their Blayney Road home.

Amid the sentimental recollections and anecdotal musings, the Examiner caught up with eldest sibling, Jim, who had travelled from New York along with his two sons, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, for the occasion.

Having emigrated in 1962, Jim recounted how six of the siblings decided to make their homes across the pond.

“John was the first to leave home in 1960 and Eileen went the following year.  He came home on vacation after two years and I remember that he had lovely clothes that I hadn’t got.  So I decided then that I would go for two years and give it a go.  My sister Margaret then said, ‘If you’re going, I’m going’, so we both travelled out together in 1962.  That was 51 years ago, and we’re still there!”

Over the following few years the exodus continued with Michael, Frank and Kathleen (who returned home after a few months), joining their other siblings in New York.

In those 53 ensuing years, the siblings met and married their spouses – all but one of whom are Irish – and raised their children.  And though at times difficult, they endeavoured to make frequent visits home and every couple of years journeyed back to Crossmaglen.

Joe was a baby of just a year old when his elder brother John left for America and was just about school-age when his sixth sibling emigrated.  So in essence, he has only got to know his State-side siblings during their holidays at home and since his own adulthood from when he has visited regularly to participate in New York marathons.

“Joe was only three when I left,” Jim explained. “He knew my kids better than me.  He grew up with them as he is only six years older.”

Although this is just the second time in 17 years that the Murray clan have all met in their hometown – having been reunited in 1988 and 1996 – this event was planned and executed in under three weeks.

With Frank already at home for a recent family wedding and Eileen having travelled with Margaret and her husband Eddie to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Gerry and Joe had the idea of arranging a reunion.  When contacted, Michael, John and Jim were not to be left out and so the plan fell into place.

“If we had have tried to arrange it months ago, it probably wouldn’t have worked out,” Gerry said.  “It’s just luck that everyone was available and able to come and it all fell into place.”

Delighted at the opportunity for all his siblings to be together, Jim says they consider themselves a very lucky family to enjoy good health and each other’s company.

“This reunion is a big thing because it may well be the last that we’ll all get together.  We’re not getting any younger but, thank God, we’re doing alright, every one of us.  It’s amazing that we’re all ok, the whole fourteen of us. There’s somebody looking down on us.”

Just last month heralded the arrival of the latest additions to the Murray family with the birth of twin girls – the 101st and 102nd great grandchildren – when Michael’s daughter, Linda and her husband Tommy, welcomed their daughters Tara and Erin.

And so the family tree continues to bloom, with its roots remaining strong and firmly rooted in Crossmaglen.