Return of the Macs -- all 300 of them
THEY'RE McNamaras -- all 300 of them. They arrived in the west yesterday, from far-flung parts of the globe, all anxious to catch up on family connections that date back hundreds of years.
By close of registration yesterday, the McNamaras and other descendants from the original family homestead at Ganty, outside Craughwell in Co Galway, had spanned at least nine countries. And all have a family connection to the family of Michael McNamara, who was born in Ganty in 1834.
Many of the McNamaras have had large families -- up to 13 children in some cases -- and spread their wings far and wide to make their own mark in the world.
Marco Grandi made the trip from Budapest in his trusty Land Rover, accompanied by his children Elena (11) and Senan (8). They travelled 2,700km by road, over three days, to arrive in Loughrea, Co Galway, for the unique family reunion.
Marco's grandmother, Phil McNamara, grew up in Ganty. After marrying Tom O'Shea from Kilkenny, she had three children, one of whom, Deirdre (Marco's mother), married Italian Dino Grandi. Marco is a senior executive with a global advertising company and is currently based in Budapest.
"The trip was slow, but we weren't going to miss such a historic event."
Overseeing the reunion and having the honour of welcoming her extended family was 88-year-old Bridie Uniacke (nee McNamara), mother of 13 children, grandmother of 36 and great-grandmother of eight.
Bridie still lives close to Ganty -- she moved a few miles away to Dunsandle after marrying local man, Mike Uniacke, who passed away 15 years ago.
"It's lovely to have them all here, especially the younger ones, because they're the new life of the family," she said.
A packed programme of events has been planned to introduce the arrivals to their Co Galway roots.
A giant family tree is also on display at the reunion headquarters in the Lough Rea Hotel. It is yet to be fully completed, but currently contains the names of 460 family members
Reunion organiser, Tom McNamara (79), originally from Craughwell but living in New Zealand for over 50 years, enlisted the help of nieces and nephews and used the internet extensively to ensure as many family members as possible were told of the clan gathering.
"We had always talked about doing something like a family reunion but now that I am retired I could finally go about doing it. It has taken best part of two years to organise, but it's great to see so many people here," he said.
Like all good reunions, no goodbyes are allowed until after a huge farewell party on Sunday night.