When Sgt. Robert Harper was posted to Kilkenny in the early 1800’s, he hardly imagined that just shy of 200yrs later 274 of his descendants would gather in Kilkenny to celebrate the Harper family.
Where once Robert had watched all, bar one, of his sons leave for Canada. One wonders what he would have thought on seeing 81 of his descendants returning from 11 different countries from as far as Hong Kong to Hawaii and Zimbabwe to Sweden?
Inspired by the ethos of the Gathering the push was on to make the fourth Harper Reunion extra special. In fact since the last Reunion the family has seen 70 births, 14 marriages and the attendance at the 2013 Reunion was a third larger than the last.
Kilkenny College proved a fantastic venue for this fun filled event as classrooms became art galleries and the study hall a buzzing hive of activity. The Reunion’s theme of creativity saw a psalm written and performed at the talent show, ad hoc Irish dancing at a Ceili and a collaborative piece of art created from everyone’s individual fingerprint. All ages were catered for with generational games, an interactive children’s programme and seminars for the adults. The weekend featured memorable visits to James Stephens Barracks where Sgt. Robert served and the original homeplace, and an excursion to Nore Valley Park.
With the huge technological advancements of the last decade, this reunion was able to provide live streaming and Skype calls enabling those who couldn’t attend to participate from afar.
The youngest member of the family, Ian, at only two weeks old, greeted his extended family by Skype from Perth, Australia. At 96 years, Bill Harper had time to share memories with 94 year old cousin, Robin Harper, who had travelled all the way from Pennsylvania. Old Connections were rekindled and new friendships forged as the intimacy of family was restored for a new generation.
A great effort was made by the organizing team to collect and preserve the stories, memories and wisdom of an aging generation. No small feat faced the photographer with the unenviable task of taking the group picture. Imagine trying to get 274 people to say cheese together! Indeed photos were an important feature over the weekend, as new snaps were taken and old ones shared.
Sunday morning was an ecumenical experience as the wide breath of Christian expression within the family came together. Music from the contemporary to traditional hymns, praying Pentecostals to enthusiastic Evangelicals, an open communion and a sermon on the importance of family in the Christian tradition, the service was a very appropriate closing ceremony that encouraged and inspired everyone present.