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Mary will enjoy mother of all days if she can get all her 21 children under one roof again

RUNNING around after your kids is one thing. But for Mary O'Brien, even listing her children's names would leave her breathless.

And while Mother's Day is the one day of the year when Irish mammies expect to be reunited with all their children, Mrs O'Brien knows she'll never get all 21 of them under the one roof again.

She said yesterday she has only managed to reunite all of them -- ranging in ages from 16 to 44 -- once before.

That was for her husband Sean's 50th birthday, some 14 years ago.

"It's impossible to get them all back together at the same time, because one or two of them will always have work commitments or something on and that'll be the same on Mother's Day.

"But I know the ones that can't make it will give me a call in the morning, so I'll get to speak to all of them."

The grandmother of 36, from Gorey, Co Wexford, said they had never all lived under the same roof, but described herself as the "luckiest mother" in the country.

"I have 21 children, who are all healthy and who all still live in Ireland," she said.

"We are a very close family and we all look out for one another. I couldn't ask for any more and they always know I'm here if they need anything and the door's always open.

"But if I was a young mother about to start a family now, I wouldn't want to have 21 children because kids these days are so demanding.

"We made do with what we had and bought what we could afford, because no one knew any different. I used just two communion dresses for my 10 daughters and at one stage four of my children had to share a double bed. But we were always a very happy family.

"At one stage 15 of the children were under the one roof at the same time."

Although Mrs O'Brien (60), who's also a great-grandmother of four, occasionally forgets one of her children's ages, she's able to reel off their names in descending order instantly.


And here goes: John (44), Annette (43), Andrew (42), Dermot (41), Declan (40), Mary (39), Patrick (37), Eileen (36), Bernadette (35), James (34), Edward (32), Thomas (30), Michael (29), Kathleen (28), Elizabeth (27), Anthony (26), Martin (24), Mairead (21), Lorraine (20), Patricia (19) and Christina (16).

And because the family is so big, all the children and grandchildren know not to expect a birthday or Christmas present every year. However, one exception to the present rule will be Mother's Day, when Mrs O'Brien expects to be inundated with gifts.

Irish Independent