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Hundreds flock to mass reunion of Kellys of Castlelambert

Little could three brothers ever have thought more than two centuries ago that, one day, more than 250 of their descendants would travel from around the world for a reunion – at the original homestead of their forefathers.

But that’s what happened recently when the sun shone on the hundreds of Kellys – all following in the footsteps of Paddy, Jack and Hughie Kelly of Castlelambert, Knocknacreeva and Lisheenkyle, to celebrate the history of their clan.

The late Paddy and Bridie Kelly, Castle Lambert

The history of the Kelly family in Castlelambert began in the 1800s when the Kellys moved there and began to herd for Captain Walter Lambert, of the Castle Lambert estate.

The surviving members of the Kelly clan and their families, returned to their roots with a celebration mass, led by retired Bishop Brendan Kelly and accompanied by members of the Athenry choir, in the field where Thomas and Celia Kelly began their family life with Paddy, Jack and Hughie and where some of the original stones from their home can still be seen today.

Farming has been a key central factor in the Kelly family for over a hundred and fifty years and the sons of Paddy, Jack and Hughie Kelly, known locally as Tommy, Tom Joe, Johnny, J.J. and Thomas Kelly still farm in the local areas of Castle Lambert, Knocknacreeva, Caherbriscane and Lisheenkyle today.

Tommy Kelly from Castlelambert, son of Paddy Kelly reflected on the day: “Truly a day to remember! One of many highlights of my life was hosting mass on the farm where I have lived for over 80 years.

Cora, Conor, Jack and Caitrion Kelly travelled from Australia to the Kelly family reunion.

“This is where life started for Thomas and Celia (my grandparents) and their sons Paddy and Hughie. Faith was an important part of their lives, and it was a wonderful occasion to honour their faith and remember family members who have passed.”

Cousins Tom Joe, Tommy, J.J. and Tomas Kelly at the Kelly family reunion

The celebration continued after the mass as the large group moved to the Raheen Woods Hotel, Athenry ,to watch slideshows and videos of family photos from the 1900s to the present day and listened to a presentation of the Kelly family history from 1750 onwards.

Members of the Kelly family travelled from as far afield as the U.S.A., Australia, Britain, Cavan, Kerry, Waterford, and Dublin for the occasion.

Jerry Kelly, son of Hughie Kelly, a builder, travelled from Chicago to the event with his wife Aishling and their twin daughters Gráinne and Kate to join the family celebration.

“Travelling back from Chicago with my family was exciting, and what an experience, meeting cousins we hadn’t met before from Australia, England and USA,” he said.

“Understanding where our heritage began with mass held on the original home from where my grandfather Thomas was evicted in 1905 was truly amazing.

“How we have grown, multiplied and prospered since then. A spectacular event, organised by a fantastic committee.”

Conor Kelly, grandson of Jack Kelly, works as an ED Consultant in Melbourne, Australia, and travelled the furthest distance (1,7350 km) with his wife Catriona and children Jack and Cora to Castle Lambert for the Kelly Gathering. “This was a rare opportunity to attend a multi-generational celebration bringing young and old together from around the world to reconnect, reminisce and rejoice” he said.

Five Kelly brothers who hurled for Athenry and attended the Kelly Gathering (from left to right) Thomas Kelly, Lisheenkyle, Athenry; Noel Kelly, Ard Aoibhinn, Athenry; Tony Kelly, Palmerstown, Oranmore; JJ Kelly, Caherbriscane, Athenry and Gerry Kelly, Orland Park, Chicago.

The planning for the Kelly gathering began in November 2019, when a family gathering committee was formed with members from the Paddy, Jack and Hughie Kelly families – but the Covid pandemic forced its postponement until 2022.

And only six days before the event took place, the total number of direct descendants from Thomas and Celia Kelly was updated to 316, when a new addition, Grace Barrett was added to the family tree.

The Kellys out in force for their family gathering.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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