South Africa, Australia and Ripon are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, but this was the case when more than 150 family members met up for a huge reunion in August.
On August 8, Maureen Brett and 19 other family members from Ripon travelled to Kiltimagh in Ireland to commemorate their family’s migration to County Meath.
However, this was no ordinary family reunion, as when they arrived they were greeted by 130 other relatives from destinations including Tokyo, USA and New Guinea.
The Durkan family, and members of the extended, reunited to unveil a memorial commemorating the migration, as well as enjoying a dinner party and a charity raffle.
Maureen said the reunion was ‘absolutely wonderful’ and described the amazing feeling of being reunited with her eight brothers and sisters from around the world.
She said: “The unveiling of the memorial was fantastic and it was just a great few days. In the end we felt like we had been away for weeks.
“It felt so special being back there with everyone. It was so funny being back together and we ended up laughing and even crying with laughter.
“It’s amazing that we have all managed to meet back up because we have gone to such different places in our lives. Not many people can say they have done something like this or ever will do.”
After emigrating to County Meath in 1943, the Durkan family moved to Ripon following the end of the war where Maureen was born in 1949.
During the massive reunion, 20 members of the Durkan family from Ripon travelled back to Castleroyan in Ireland to lay the memorial and visit their father’s old family home.
The family hosted a reunion 13 years ago and, following the success of the latest catch-up, a third has been arranged in five years time.
Maureen said she was ‘lost for words’ at times during the reunion as she met up with new and familiar faces and described the importance of keeping the family together.
She said: “We met people there who we had never met before, there were obviously people there from last time but unfortunately the generation above me were not there.
“My father was from a family of 10 that migrated and there were 10 of us. You can imagine how big our family is but we were the only family that had all of our brothers and sisters there.
“We grew up in Masham, North Stainley and Ripon. There has actually been someone from our family at St Wilfrids school for 63 years with no break. At the moment my grandchildren Macy, Dillon and Regan are there.
“It’s unbelievably important to keep the family together. It was a magical experience standing there, taking it all in.”