Thurles twins mark their 80th birthdays with a huge celebration for family and friends in Hayes Hotel

Johnston celebration

Tipperary Star reporter


Tipperary Star reporter

Thurles twins mark their 80th birthdays with a huge celebration for family and friends in Hayes Hotel

Pictured are the sisters with friends. Front row from left - Ursula and Phil, Back row from left: Margaret Tobin, Kathleen Maher, May Cooke.

A set of twins, who are originally from Thurles, marked their 80th birthdays with extended family, cousins and friends at a huge celebration in Hayes Hotel, recently.

The twins Philomena and Ursula Johnston were born at home on Slievenamon road in January 1938, to Nonie and Hubert Johnston, and were the eldest of 11 children.

Twins were a rare sight in those days and the babies drew huge attention anytime they were out.

The young girls attended school at the Presentation Convent, Thurles, and being the eldest of the Johnstons had the responsibility of bringing younger sisters and brothers to school on their first day.

Summers were spent with Aunt Lizzie Wall in Dovea, who in those days drove a horse and cart, or in Graiguenamanagh with Aunt Kathleen Reddy, who passed away just last year.

They also spent many days helping out in their grandparents shop, Gaelic stores on Parnell Street. Entertainment was just next door where the cinema stood for many years on Slievenamon road.

World War II and the Emergency spanned from 1939 to 1945; however it was not until 1951 that rationing ended in Ireland.

Only after the war could you get anything as exotic as an orange and Phil recalls seeing oranges arrive in the shops for the first time in Thurles. She recalls vividly the excitement of being given a shilling to go buy one.

In 1955 Phil came up to Dublin with her friends, Margaret Corbett and May Cooke, and started work in Department of Finance.

Phil met Joe Ryan who was from Clare, whom she married. They had seven children. Sadly Phil was widowed very young when Joe passed away in 1979.

Ursula moved to England and married Frank Dyer, who was from Roscrea. They raised three children, we fondly remember Frank who passed away in Feb. 2010.

Over the years both families met up in Thurles for summer holidays, forging a lifelong love and connection with family and Thurles town.

So 80 years on Phil and Ursula and the extended family, cousins and friends were reunited for a huge celebration in Hayes Hotel, with dinner and dancing to musicians Dixie and Kim followed by chatting late into the night.

To round up the weekend, Ursula's son Gary, who is a priest, co-celebrated Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles. Much to the embarrassment of Ursula and Phil he brought them up to the altar and had the congregation sing happy birthday to them.