By Diarmaid Doherty
WHEN the snow fell in Letterkenny last January, Eilish Sweeney’s thoughts turned to her two grandsons in far off sunny Australia.
Brothers Sean and Alex Sweeney had enjoyed a memorable holiday in Letterkenny when they were little boys, spending a brilliant time with their granny Eilish and the rest of the Sweeney clan.
And they got to make snowballs too – a wonderful childhood memory that had stayed with their dear granny all these years later.
So knowing that the boys were planning a trip back to Letterkenny later in the year, Eilish and her daughter Geraldine refused to let the chance pass when the winter weather hit last January.
They made two snowballs for Sean (31) and Alex (27) – and placed them in the freezer in safe-keeping for their visit.
Sadly, Eilish passed away in March, meaning that when her two grandsons arrived in Letterkenny last week, their granny wasn’t there to offer them her special warm, Donegal welcome.
But the two snowballs were duly presented – and inside each one was a little pearl earring which Eilish wanted the boys to give to their mammy, Ann.
It was a lovely gesture – and so typical of a lady who brought so much joy and happiness, not just to her loving family, but to everyone who knew her.
Sean and Alex’s father Mark Sweeney left the Sweeney home in Ard O’Donnell and moved to England many years ago with his wife Ann. They would relocate to Perth in Australia soon after, and that’s where they’ve lived ever since.
Last week, the family were back in Letterkenny and Sean and Alex were joined on the holiday by their partners, Meg and Jess along with Jess’s mum Kim.
Another of the Sweeney grandchildren, Roisin, a daughter of Hugh, is also home from Australia, along with her husband Neil, and their children Aoife and Conor.
So as the Sweeneys got together again, the happy family gathering was tinged with a sense of sadness given that it’s only a few months since granny Eilish’s passing.
Geraldine said the family have enjoyed a lovely time together.
“Mammy always loved having the family together, and she would have loved an occasion like this,” she said.
“We all miss her so much. I have a wee chat with her on my own everyday and I know that she’s there for us, and looking after us all.
“When she made the snowballs and put the earrings in for Ann, that was just so typical of our mammy.
“It’s just a great pity that she wasn’t here to see the reaction on the faces of Sean and Alex. She would have loved that.”
Geraldine became a granny herself earlier this year with the arrival of grandson Tyler O’Riordan. And to maintain a long-standing family tradition, little Tyler was christened in the christening robe of Granda Conaghan (Eilish’s father) which is now over 100 years old.
The same robe was safely brought out by Eilish to Australia when Sean and then Alex were christened.
Eilish Sweeney was 96 when she died in March. She was predeceased by her beloved husband William in December 1990, daughter Collette and son-in-law Jim Archibald.
The Sweeney family includes sons Andy (Dublin), Hughie (Letterkenny), Mark (Perth) and Colm (Letterkenny), daughters Geraldine
Durning and Janice Archibald (Letterkenny), 15 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.