“WE are on high doh,” says Mary Noonan who, along with her sister Bridget and other members of the Noonan and Bond families, have organised a Gathering 2013 event for this weekend.
And they expect to have upwards of 100 family members at their Gathering in South Cappa, Loughill with 26 people coming from the US alone, with another 25 coming from Britain along with other cousins from Australia and France.
“Some of them touched down last week,” Mary reveals “and they have been sightseeing around Ireland since.”
The Noonan-Bond Gathering is just one of 161 different events which are taking place in Limerick to mark The Gathering 2013 but is exactly the type of event which the initiators of the idea had in mind when they set the target of over 300,000 extra visitors to Ireland in 2013.
It is also a snap-shot of the Irish diaspora. Sarah, Mary Noonan’s mother, was born into the Bond family from Dunmoylan, Shanagolden and had seven brothers and five sisters, ten of whom emigrated. Jack Noonan, whom Sarah married in 1952, was an only son but he had ten sisters, one of whom still lives near the home-place.
Jack and Sarah reared a family of 11 but one of the sons, Michael, died in 2004. Jack, who worked for Limerick County Council, died in 1985.
“We have a lot of contact with our American cousins and with our English cousins but the English and American cousins wouldn’t be as familiar with one another,” Mary explains.
And the plan is to concentrate as much as possible on getting to know one another.
“There will be a lot of tracing and we have asked people to bring photographs,” Mary goes on. “And we have made out a family tree for everyone.”
It will most definitely be an occasion for celebration, Mary emphasises.
Their Gathering kicked off last October when the first email was sent. “And it was the response from the cousins that really spurred us on to do it. They have been so positive,” Mary continues. A lively weekend has been arranged at the old Noonan family home in South Cappa in Loughill where they have set up a marquee to cater for the Gathering, where Mary’s mother Sarah and her aunt, Mary McGrath, nee Bond will hold court.
The weekend will open with a Mass and will also include a sports day, a boat-trip on the Shannon and a visit to the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum. There will be large family meals in the marquee with local musicians providing entertainment and dancing on all three evenings. Visits to Knockpatrick and other local cemeteries will also be included.
And although Finance Minister Michael Noonan is one of the better known of the Noonans from Loughill, he is a neighbour rather than a cousin, Mary Noonan explains.“If he is around, he will be more than welcome to call,” she adds.