The Creegans - North Longford's and Ireland's oldest family

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Creegan Reunion

Philomena, Helena, Belinda, Jean, Eilish, Oliver, PJ, Johnny, Séamus, Sarah, Kathleen, Tess and Pat Creegan

They number a grand total of 1,112 years between them and are to all intents and purposes, Ireland’s oldest family.

Thirteen members of the Creegan family from Dromard in north Longford came together recently for a special reunion at Arva’s Breffni Arms Hotel to celebrate that milestone.

The get-together brought with it a reappearance of the family’s much cherished churn which its fifth oldest, Johnny Creegan paid £104 to restore.

“That would have been used every day back then,” said the sprightly 84-year-old as he cast a watchful gaze over some old photographs this week.

“Two big pigs were killed every year and we would have gone through about ten stone of flour every week.”

The offspring of parents Jimmy and Katie Creegan (nee Farrelly), the couple initially had 17 children.
Regrettably, a baby died at birth while Katie herself passed away aged just 51, leaving James to raise 16 children ranging in ages from eight to 25 years old.

Fast forward more than six decades, 14 of the Creegan clan remain, the oldest surviving being Sarah at 87-years-old and 72-year-old Helena, the youngest.

“The story goes that there are seven of us over 70 and seven over 80,” said Johnny, while also revealing the Creegan family name could be traced back to the time of revered Gaelic leaders Hugh O’Neill and Hugh Roe O’Neill at the 1601 Battle of Kinsale.

There was a special mention too for his 86-year-old sister and nun, Mary Rose who was unable to travel home for the recent reunion.

Johnny, who still remarkably farms close to 50 heifers on a daily basis at Crott, Moyne, put the Creegan longevity genepool down to a combination of factors.

“I suppose you could say it was healthy food, fresh air, that we were always active and we always kept the faith,” he grinned.

There was an equally comical response from the former minor county board secretary when facetiously asked if he had ever contemplated making a footballing comeback for his beloved Dromard.

“I’ll go for a month to Lourdes first,” he joked.

“Sure when I was playing there was nothing but a junior team. We just played away, there was no training during those times.

“I have the last animals on the farm anyway at the minute and I’m planning to retire in October.”

Not bad for an 84-year-old.