80-year-old twins reconnect with members of their mother’s family

By Aideen O'Flaherty

80-YEAR-OLD twins received their best birthday present yet when, after decades without contact, they got to reconnect with members of their mother’s family – who sadly died when the two boys were only nine-months-old.

Frank and Tony Gallagher, who grew up in Tallaght and now live in Templeogue and Ballyboden  respectively, celebrated their 80th birthday earlier this month with a socially distanced celebration with their family and friends.

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The twins when their mother was still alive at six-months-old

But, on the week leading up to their birthday, they got an early present – when one of their cousins from their mother’s side of the family got in touch, after the men had spent years searching for more information about their mother, Lily Tierney, who passed away at 29-years-old in 1941.

The two boys were then raised by their father, and contact was lost with their mother’s side of the family.

Frank’s wife, Jean Gallagher, told The Echo: “Their mother passed away in the early 1940s and their father got married again very quickly, so he could keep the boys.

“They probably lost contact with their mother’s side of the family because there were no phones and no public transport back then.”

The two men knew their mother was originally from Inchicore and, after several years of searching, they found their mother’s grave in Bluebell Cemetery in 2018.

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Tony and Frank on their First Communion day

“They were so emotional when they finally found her grave, and it was completely overgrown,” added Jean. “They’ve done it up as much as they can.”

The twins placed a memorial plaque at their mother’s grave, which is inscribed with the words: ‘You were the mam we never knew, and always wished we had, we were nine months old when you left us, in the care of our great dad.’

The next step was to try to track down any living family members from the Tierney side of the twins’ family, so Jean went on RTÉ’s Liveline recently to see if anyone who was listening was a relation of Lily’s or knew her family, but had no luck.

She then posted on Facebook groups for people living in Drimnagh and Inchicore, where members of the community did their best to help the Gallaghers find Lily’s relatives, and on the week of the twins’ 80th birthday, the Gallaghers got the breakthrough that they were hoping for.

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Frank and Tony when they were approx 18-months-old

“We got a message from someone on Facebook saying, ‘We’re the family you’ve been looking for’,” said Jean.

“Frank and Tony got unbelievably excited.”

The message had been from their cousin, Sharon Tierney, whose father was Lily’s brother.

The twins found out that they had six first cousins on their mother’s side of the family, and that their uncle, Sharon’s father, had kept photographs of the twins as young children, and of their father’s marriage to Lily, which Sharon now had in her possession – and they matched pictures the twins had.

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Tony and Frank enjoying their 80th birthday

“I can’t explain what it’s like for them. They’re on a high, they’re so excited,” said Jean.

“We’re all still trying to get over the shock of them finding their cousins, and we would love to meet them.

“The fact that this all happened on the week of their 80th birthday is fantastic.”

The twins are hoping to reconnect with the Tierney side of their family in person when the lockdown measures are loosened – which has given the two men a new lease of life following their 80th birthday celebrations.

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