Sam Harper’s funeral

Today we celebrated and thanked God for the life of Sam Harper of Sandford’s Court, Kilkenny at his funeral service in the Presbyterian Church, Kilkenny. Sam passed away on September 4th, 2020 just a few weeks before his 100th birthday. Sam was a man of deep character, integrity, humility, humour and faith and will be dearly missed.

Our sympathy and prayers are with Dougie, Albert and Margaret Harper, Dorothy and Harry Smith, Beryl and Gordon Harper, David and Mary Harper, and all the grandchildren and great grandchildren and all who will miss his sparkling eyes and beautiful character.

Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions only a maximum of 50 people could attend the service in person. So while many people couldn’t be there in person they joined in watching a live video feed from outside the church building and around the world through Facebook.

You can watch the recording of the service below:

We were fortunate that Sam was able to take part in the Harper Family Virtual Reunion back in April and so we have a recording of a beautiful message from him that was used in the service.

Many who couldn’t attend the service also honoured Sam in their own way. Nigel Smith, the designer behind The Harper Family Cookbook and Sam’s grandson, published a recipe for Sam’s favourite meal, encouraging others to cook and share the meal in memory of Sam.

Hi Everyone! If like me you are unable to be with family right now after Grandad’s death and are feeling a little disconnected or are unsure of how to mark this occasion, I would like to share with you this recipe for Grandad’s favorite meal and invite you to cook and eat it in remembrance of him. Tomorrow evening we will make this recipe and spend some time sharing memories and maybe sing a couple of his favorite hymns.

Nigel Smith on the Harper Clan Facebook Group

The Harper Family Cookbook Launch

Food for the body and soul

The 5th of July marked The Harper Family Cookbook launch, and what a day out it was. We met at Sandsford’s court in Kilkenny, home of the oldest Harper, Uncle Sam (99) and his son, Dougie.

Had the weather been in our favour, we would have spread out on blankets in a field, but as it was windy enough to blow the sandwich right out of your hand, Dougie kindly prepared a farm shed for us.

A number of Harper's gathered in shed around the art display of Nigel and Kyria Smith.

Five years ago, this corrugated tin shed had a massive makeover to host the wedding of Dougie’s nephew Micheal and his bride Edith. Five years on however, the faded grandeur of that celebration still hangs limply from the ceiling. The wonder in a five year old’s eyes that a shed could have a chandelier, was a fitting setting for this family gathering. We were as comfortable in a storage shed as we would have been in a fancy hotel. It’s the people that matter after all. And so many people! Before 2020, having a gathering of 70 people would have been nothing to blink at. But as the families rolled in, all staying in their family groups, and spilling out of the shed, that sense of awe, of relief came rolling in too. It was so good to see family. To strengthen the bonds that connect us. 

And the question on everyone’s lips? “How are you?”, ”How was Lockdown?”, “Were you working or at home?” The relief of talking to people who have a shared experience and the quiet gratitude that we could be together again was a balm to the soul.

Dave and Audrey Shaw chat to a relative.

There were strains too, the quiet murmur of many people talking together is something none of us had experienced in half a year. The stepping up to someone but keeping your distance and remembering not to sweep your 80 year old aunt up into a hug. The desperate need to stifle that sneeze, not to cough or sniffle. The shock of being around so many people, the unfamiliarity and the tiredness that hit from social exhaustion (the antithesis of the Harper family experience).

The highlights were dizzyingly high though. Seeing the growth of once small children. The announcement of a new baby on the way. The display of art from Nigel and Kyria Smith. The belly laughs that echoed all around and warmed that place in your spirit that you hadn’t even realised was cold. Breaking bread together is not an unfamiliar act within the family, and while we didn’t share as we usually would, with everyone bringing their own and keeping to themselves, it was still the act of eating together that made things more normal. And because we Harpers love to eat, to come together over food, it was only fitting that we were eating at the launch of The Harper Family Cookbook. Officially launched by Jill Callanan, who was the brains behind the operation, thanks were given and congratulations passed around, to a background of laughter and clapping.

Jill Harper smiles at her son Hugh

The cookbook itself is beautiful. Its thick glossy pages and gorgeous photos pull you in, and the compilations of recipes and stories behind them (put together by Nigel Smith) are what keeps you reading, long after you’ve found yourself drooling. The book is 231 pages and chock full of family history, photos and fun with new traditions and recipes that have come from the family spreading around the world. To quote the book itself, the purpose of it is “to help our extended family preserve and enjoy the amazing food we have all come to love as a family”. These ”time-tested recipes… will serve as a family legacy”. The next time we meet as a family, I’m sure the tradition of everyone bringing a dish to share will be pulled from the cookbook itself. After all, there’s nothing like having a little bit of everything that’s good; food and family. 

The Harper Family Cookbook stacked proudly
The Harper Family Cookbook launch is featured in the KIlkenny People newspaper.

To see and buy some of Nigel and Kyria’s amazing art, visit their website

Harper Family Virtual Reunion 2020

When Sgt. Robert Harper was posted to Kilkenny in the early 1800’s, he hardly imagined that just shy of 200 years later, 170 plus of his descendants from 9 different countries would gather virtually for a family reunion! 

Ellie, Patricia, Lauren, Abbie, Hannah and David Harper welcome other Harper's to the virtual reunion with a banner

The Harper family had been planning their 5th reunion in Kilkenny College from 16th -19th April, but due to the corona pandemic, the reunion had to be postponed. Our last reunion in 2013, part of The Gathering celebration, saw 274 people gather from 11 different countries. Since then there has been 21 marriages and 45 births, and sadly the loss of 10 family members.

Not to be out done by the corona virus, We organised this virtual reunion on Zoom to mark the weekend it was to take place on. Three meet-ups on Saturday and one on Sunday afternoon were scheduled to accommodate as many time zones as possible.

The Harper Family virtual reunion on a laptop

When those in Ireland had a morning cuppa in their hand, and the Australian cousins were having supper, we started with an opening welcome and some breakout chat rooms.  Some conversations begin with “Auntie Helen, your mike is still on” or “How come we can’t see Emma in Lisbon?”. Echoes of Eurovision where heard too, “Sweden, are you ready?”. 

As North America started to wake, they joined us in the afternoon for our Family tree talk by Gordon Harper (Ireland) and David Harper (Canada). Followed by breakout rooms discussing A.I., health and healing, farming, family history, and chat and banter. It was wonderful to hear from our oldest member, Uncle Sam, who will be 100 years old in October. Normally not one to embrace the stage, Zoom provided the perfect means for him to share his words of wisdom to an eager audience. The good news of the birth of the youngest member, Zeph Robert Harper born on Friday 17thApril 2020 in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. Enabled us to congratulate the proud parents Graham and Cathriona Harper, and big brother Reuben.

The Harper family virtual reunion featured in the Kilkenny People newspaper.

Later that evening, as our family in Maui were starting their day, Norwegian cousins dazzled our screens with their dance moves for the evening talent show. Among the performers that evening was 9 year old Yasmine Harper in Sheffield (UK), who played her violin and brother Luke (13) on the piano. Art was displayed by Ellie and Lauren Harper in Kilkenny (Ireland) and some of Ben Harper’s work with Giant Animation was viewed from their show reel. The moon, stars and galaxies over head in Co. Clare where captured by David Wades’ photography skills, and brought to us by screen sharing. 

That evening the Harper family cook book was revealed by Nigel Smyth ( The goal of this book was to help our extended family preserve and enjoy the amazing food we have all come to love as a family. The book is filled with wonderful stories, pictures, and delicious time-tested recipes that will serve as a family legacy to be cherished for generations.

The Harper Family Cookbook

Sunday afternoon was a collaborative experience as the wide breath of Christian expression within the family came together on Zoom. Live and recorded music came from families in Kilkenny and London. Recorded and animated media gave the kids and teens something to enjoy. The elders in the family shared from their years of faith, which was deeply encouraging in this time of separation and uncertainty. Communion was celebrated by Rev. Paul Taylor and prayers spoken by people of different generations and destinations. 

Over the weekend the events on Zoom were recorded for posterity by the hosts. The closing task fell on Alister Shaw to organise the whole group and capture them in multiple screen shots. Family members were called in from other rooms, Zoom names changed from iPhone/iPad to reflect the person’s name and finally the challenge of getting toddlers to sit still while this was all happening.

A 7 by 7 grid of Harper family faces on the online video conference call
Alister Shaw hosting the online video conference call on Zoom.

Harper Reunion 2020—COVID-19 Update

Those of us responsible for organising the reunion have discussed the current COVID 19 situation in Ireland, and its possible developments here and abroad. With this in light, we have taken the decision to postpone the reunion until the risk of spreading COVID 19 has diminished. We do not want to be a possible cause of spreading the virus and putting anyone at risk. 

This decision has saddened us and wasn’t taken lightly.  We know so many, including us, were looking forward to having the opportunity to meet up with everyone. 

Thankfully the work we have put into planning the reunion for April 2020 will not go to waste. As we will work to arrange another date in the future, passing on details once we have them, which will give us all something to look forward to. We will also organise distribution of the Harper Cookbook and update accordingly.

—The Harper Reunion Team

Pre-reunion meal and photo shoot

What a delicious day!

On November 10th, 2020 we had a gathering of Harpers for a pre-reunion meal and photo shoot for the Harper Family Cookbook!

Members of the Harper family serving themselves food, viewed through a doorway with the words Jehovah Shalom written above it.

We had more than 30 people hosted at Robert and Colleens in Cobbler’s Hill, Co. Kilkenny. Dishes included savoury mains like sweet and sour pork, chilli, chicken korma and a bacon and cabbage bake (which I’m looking forward to getting the recipe for!). Desserts included chocolate biscuit cake, key lime pie and sticky toffee pudding.

The food was styled and photographed by our own Patricia McGrath Harper and guest food photographer Cynthia Wong who worked tirelessly all afternoon and into the evening to get everything captured.

Patricia Harper holds a serving board with butter, soup and bread.

From the little taster (😉) we got today, this book is going to be great!

Sylvia Harper’s Funeral

Sylvia’s Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance was held in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny after her passing on the 25th of February, 2007. This recording has been edited into 13 smaller files which you can listen to individually by using the download button below.