More than 100 members of an extended family with countless ties and a rich local history will jet into Ardee from all over the world in two weeks time for a major family reunion and gathering.
The two day gathering is being held in memory of a returned Irish emigrant and his wife – David and Ann (nee Walsh) Brennan – and their 12 children, grandchildren and extended family. Taking in Ardee, Dundalk and the Brennan’s home in Drumkeen, Claremorris, Co. Mayo.
Descendants and relatives will pay tribute to late David, Ann and their 12 children, now all departed. A special family mass at the Church of the Nativity will be celebrated by Monsignor Patrick Brennan of Portland Oregon, grandson of David and Ann.
“We are very excited to welcome so many extended family from all over Ireland, and the rest of the world, including the United States, Canada, the UK and Europe, for our much anticipated two-day gathering in Ardee and Dundalk, where many of our family now proudly call home,” Ardee local David Brennan said.
Also a grandson of David and Ann, David is well known locally and is the managing director of Ardee Sports Company. His parents Martin Brennan – one of the 12 Drumkeen siblings – and Bridie relocated from Mayo and settled in Pepperstown near Ardee in the early 1950s. “A warm reception is assured for our visiting family,” he continued.
A reunion similar in size and scale of those Gathering events a number of years ago, the Brennan get-together promises to be one of the biggest multi-generational family reunions held in Ireland this year. Over 100 family members are expected – many of whom are meeting for the very first time. It’s sure to be an emotional moment for many.
Before meeting wife Ann (also known as Annie), David Brennan had emigrated to the USA during the Great Famine, which so ravished the west of Ireland. He returned to Mayo after the death of his brother Tobias in 1897. David took over farming 30 acres of family farm at Drumkeen and eight years after his return, he wed Ann Walsh in 1905.
David was one of five Brennan brothers who had set sail for America whilst Tobias remained at home. David died in 1936, aged 63. Annie Ban died forty years later in 1976, aged 94. Their children – the 12 Drumkeen siblings – spread far and wide, across Ireland, the UK and the US.
Mid-Louth – and Ardee in particular – was where many of the Brennan’s settled, first in the 50s. Martin and wife Bridie arrived and Martin’s sister Bridie also set up home in the area. Hence, the use of Ardee as the central hub of the major reunion.
The last living Drumkeen sibling was the aforementioned and very well-known Bridie Byrne (nee Brennan) of Bridge Street, Ardee who died 12 months ago aged 95. Formerly a Jubilee nurse, Bridie and her black bike were once a familiar sight in Ardee as she went house-to-house tending to the sick, elderly and also undertaking midwifery duties.
Bridie married Alfie Byrne after her retirement from nursing, bringing up five children and working in the family shop at 28 Bridge Street in the town (above), where The Ardee Clinic now resides.
One of those five children was John Aidan Byrne, a US based journalist who contributes to amongst other titles The New York Post.
“My mother was fond of quoting the famous lines attributed to the late Rosary priest, Fr. Patrick Peyton of Co Mayo, ‘The family that prays together, stays together,”” John said.
“In the end, you could say our mother was perfectly right, if you look at the huge response to our much-anticipated gathering. It is certainly a fitting tribute to my mother and her sibling’s enduring Catholic faith and devotion to family, and to the great values passed down by my courageous grandparents,” he added.
Some of the family are returning to the church where Bridie’s funeral was held just one year ago. At that service, another of her sons, Albert, recalled tales from his mother’s youth. “Like her brother Martin, she loved growing up on the small dairy farm in Drumkeen, and as a little girl delivered milk in cans to the houses of Claremorris on a horse and trap.
“Each week she would receive her ‘pocket money,’ and this went straight into her post office savings account. As war broke out across Europe, with her savings she paid for her nurses training in Dublin.”
The Reunion will officially open with a Family Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Ardee, celebrated by Monsignor Brennan who is pastor of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, US.
The son of Tommy Brennan and his wife Maria, Msgr. Brennan’s parents were married in Austria, and shortly after WWII, they settled in the state of Oregon. “We are excited to unite with our Brennan cousins in Ireland and beyond,” he said. “Two of my sisters, Maureen and Lori, along with Lori’s daughter, Nellie, will be attending.”
Msgr. Brennan also recalled how he and two of his sisters visited Ireland last year to honor their father, who had died the previous September, aged 96. “It was a wonderful visit,” he said, “connecting with some of our family and visiting family graves. We hope to visit with our many other cousins at the reunion–a tribute to our parents, and a long overdue connection with our extended family,” he added.
Clearly enamored by the prospect of his latest visit, he added, “We have many stories to tell.”
As well as a family mass, there will be a house reception plus an evening of of craic and chat at Brian Muldoon’s Brew House on Bridge Street, with local councillor Dolores Minogue among those in attendance to greet visitors. A Clay Pigeon event on the farm of the late Martin Brennan will also be held and the family will assemble for a special reunion reception and dinner at the Crowne Plaza in Dundalk.