The Donnelly family from rural Collegeland on the County Armagh-Tyrone border are thought to be the oldest group of siblings in the world as, collectively, they add up to an incredible 1064 years.
True North: The World’s Oldest Family looks at what it means to grow older in today’s society as it follows the family as they attempt to get a world record.
Narrated by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon, who hails from the same area, and made by Alleycats Films, this True North film is due to be broadcast on Monday 31 October on BBC One Northern Ireland at 10.45pm.
Austin Donnelly (70) and his 13 siblings, Sean (92), Maureen (91), Eileen (89), Peter (86), Mairead (85), Rose (84), Tony (82), Terry (80), Seamus (79), Brian (75), Kathleen (74), Colm (72) and Leo (70), came to the realisation that all their ages added up to a grand total of 1,117 (at the time) after Austin decided to do a bit of maths at his eldest sister Maureen’s 90th birthday party earlier last year.
From then on the seed was planted and Austin was determined to find out if they really are the oldest group of siblings in the world.
Sadly, before being able to complete his world record journey, Austin passed away earlier this year. His twin Leo has since taken up the mantle to complete the family’s world record attempt in his brother’s honour.
Following Leo’s efforts, the film weaves a portrait of a large family from rural Northern Ireland growing up in the most turbulent of times. Family archive helps to bring to life personal recollections and experiences. The Donnellys, in all their years, are our guides through a historical journey, with themselves at the centre of it.