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Armagh’s oldest family makes it into record books

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Armagh’s oldest family makes it into record books thumbnail Members of the Donnelly family pictured outside their Collegelands home.

IT was a very special family celebration in the Donnelly childhood home in Collegelands recently, as the 13 siblings - with a combined age of 1,073 years - came from far and wide to celebrate their entry into the record books as the oldest family group in the world.

Last autumn a BBC NI programme documented their Guinness Book of World Records bid as the siblings; Leo (72), Sean (93), Maureen (92), Eileen (90), Peter (87), Mairead (86), Rose (85), Tony (83), Terry (81), Seamus (80), Brian (76), Kathleen (75), and Colm (73) reflected on their cherished family memories in an episode of 'True North: World's Oldest Family'.

In March, however, they received the great news that they had been successful and that their names would appear in the Guinness records.

It took until around two weekends ago, however, before they all could celebrate together in person with siblings coming from across the province, Dublin and England to attend the special family occasion.

It was also a poignant gathering, as the record attempt idea came from the family's youngest sibling, Austin who sadly passed away in 2015.

Speaking to the Ulster Gazette last autumn, Leo said his twin brother would be "proud" of the documentary and continuing their record bid. "Austin was born two-and-a-half hours older than me, we shared the same womb, we played together and we grew up together and took over the farm together," he said at the time.

"He would be very proud of the documentary; we did it for Austin, in his memory." The siblings are the children of Peter and Ellen Donnelly, who welcomed 16 children throughout their marriage. The siblings' documentary, which has been updated, is due to air once again next month and Leo told a regional daily newspaper that the process of getting their record attempt confirmed required some effort! "We had to get everyone's birth certs together and of course some people didn't know where theirs was," he said.

"We had to get some of them sent out again, and then the marriage certs for the girls who changed their names. We had to have three referees back us up of course, to say we were who we said, including the local priest!," he said.

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