When Irishman Joe Quinlivan met Bridgetta Collins at a church hall dance, little did the pair know it was to be the start of a unique link between their homelands.
A native of County Clare, like many of his countrymen Joe had been working as a labourer in London before being transferred to Scotland on a gas pipelaying project. He was living in Falkirk and attended a St Patrick’s dance in the old Falkirk Town Hall in Upper Newmarket Street in March 1960 where he met the young woman who was to become his wife.
Their story may not seem that remarkable except that three of her sisters also went on to marry men from County Clare in the Irish republic, while another married one from County Meath.
Joe, now 76, said: “It has generated a lot of traffic between the two countries – and revenue for the airlines and ferry companies – as we’ve travelled back and forth over the years.”
The Collins sisters, along with brothers John and Eddie, were born and brought up in their home in Falkirk town centre on the site of the Howgate shopping centre, by parents Matt and Bella. The family later moved to a newly-built council home in Shannon Drive, Bantaskine.
Joe added: “Soon after we married at St Francis Xavier’s in May 1962, a former school friend of mine, Jerome Griffin, who was also living in London, came to Falkirk to visit me. He fell in love with my wife’s sister Maria and romance blossomed and they also got married in Falkirk in September 1969.
“The lived in Queens Drive for a while before moving back to the Ennis area of County Clare. Sisters Patricia and Eileen went on holiday and both met their husbands there.
“Patricia married John Hanrahan in December 1969 and moved to live near Ennis, while Eileen married Gerry Connellan in August 1974 and moved to the same area.”
He added that sister number five, Kathleen, married Tom Cassidy from Trim in County Meath and had seven children.
Joe and Bridgetta (75) still live in their home in Blinkbonny Road, Bantaskine, and have six chidren, five daughters and one son, and 16 grandchildren.
Sisters Maria (68) and Eileen (61) both live in Ireland, while Kathleen and John live in Falkirk. Sadly Patricia and Eddie have died, as have their parents, Matt in 2004, aged 92, and Bella in 2006, on the eve of her 90th birthday.
Joe said: “I’m not sure if there are any families in this area or anywhere else in Scotland who can beat this. However, we’ve certainly clocked up the miles over the years going between here and Shannon.
“Perhaps we’ll end up in the Guinness Book of Records if nobody can beat us.”