A UNIQUE Cork family spanning five generations say they are relishing being together again following months of uncertainty and pandemic restrictions.
100-year-old Eileen O’Connell posed for a photograph with her son Daniel O’Connell, grandson — also Daniel O’Connell — great-granddaughter Cliodhna O’Connell and great-great-grandson Tadhg O’Connell at her home in Boreenmanna Road. The rare image was taken ahead of Positive Ageing Week which runs this week from today.
The family said that while they seldom find time to all be in the same room together, individually they are very close.
Cliodhna described what life has been like as the fourth in a five-generation family.
“I used to joke that it was the family curse,” Cliodhna laughed as she referenced the young age they all became parents. “We have a lot of funny encounters where people assume that Tadhg is dad’s son, one person even asked if he was “our first.”
Nonetheless, the three-year-old has brought them unbridled joy.
“I was an only child so dad got his boy,” Cliodhna said of her dad.
At just 43 years old, Daniel is enjoying life as a grandad.
“It’s almost like he is a son as opposed to just a grandson,” he said.
“The four of us live under the same roof. It’s a modest enough house but it’s great to have Tadhg living with us. There is never really a dull moment.”
Daniel recalled the moment his daughter broke the news.
“I was just back from five-a-side football when I got the news that I was going to be a grandad. To this day, I still can’t remember who won the game that evening.”
Cliodhna admits she purposely told her mother first.
“I told mum first because I knew that dad wouldn’t yell. For me, it’s ten times worse when a parent expresses that quiet disappointment.”
She recounted Eileen’s reaction with vivid clarity.
“When I first told granny I was expecting a baby it was quite a shock. When you’re giving someone news like this at such a young age it can be scary. It was a few days after Christmas when I told Granny. The whole family was playing the board game Risk in the other room, like we do every year, when I finally managed to let her know. I said to her ‘Granny, I have something to tell you. You’re going to be a great-great-grandmother.”
“All she did was look at me and say ‘you’re a terrible girl’. However, just a few moments later she was asking me if the others were still outside playing Risk.”
While the news came as a shock, Cliodhna’s family was extremely supportive and understanding.
“I still live with my parents so the support has been great. My own mum was 20 when she had me so having a kid young was something they could relate to. It made it that bit easier that they were able to understand my situation.”
Cliodhna praised her family for their ongoing support.
“They helped me live a relatively normal life for a 20-year-old. A lot of people tell me that I’m mature for my age but I’m lucky to have had the help that I do.”
Cliodhna has fond memories of growing up with a great-grandmother.
“The novelty of having a great-grandmother was always cool. She used to make us cake all the time and I visited her every Sunday. She always made a Victoria sponge just for me because she knew that’s what I liked and that I was a picky eater.”
Daniel described the benefits that come from being part of a multi-generation family.
“The lack of a generation gap between Cliodhna and me is probably one of the best things about the situation. It will be the same for her and Tadhg,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Eileen, who was the daughter of Irish heavyweight champion boxer Pakie O’Mahony, came around to the idea of being a great-great-grandmother.
“Tadgh is a lovely little boy,” Eileen said.
Helping raise the children has always been a joy for the much-loved centenarian.
“Daniel (Eileen’s grandson) was the quietest baby you ever knew. He was great and every year he got better and better.”
Daniel Sr said they are yet to meet another family spanning as many generations.
“My wife looked it up on the internet and the most generations that were ever recorded in one family was seven but that would be highly rare.”
While Eileen enjoys being surrounded by family, she still misses her late husband Michael O’Connell every day.
“I still miss him. We had a lovely marriage, what a lovely life. I’ll never forget the day we met. He looked at me and said ‘that’s the girl I’d love to marry and I said, ‘you must be joking’. A few years later we had the wedding and it was the happiest day of my life.”