Jay Copp 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Pushed in strollers, walking proudly side by side or striding fondly hand in hand, hundreds of twins paraded down the main street in Carrickmacross. The pairs looked alike and mostly dressed alike. Sponsored by Lions, the second annual Twins Festival in Ireland last summer brought together 252 sets of twins, triplets and even a set of quadruplets. “I’m a twin myself, so I said let’s go with a twin’s parade. They thought I was mad in the head,” said Paddy Gollogly, who was president of the Carrickmacross Lions Club in 2009 when he proposed the festival. Bringing together hundreds of twins in a quiet, quaint Irish town of 2,500 for a day made for a memorable spectacle. Up and down the aisles of stores were twins. Seated in restaurants were twins. Walking down streets were more identical siblings. “It’s magical seeing so many twins in one place. It brings a lump to your throat. All day in the town at every corner you’d see someone pushing a double pram [stroller],” says Gollogly. Paddy and Jimmy, his twin, rode a tandem bike in the parade. That was just one of many of the festival’s takes on twindom. The parade included a double decker bus and the twinning of pipe and brass bands. Merchants offered buy one, get one free discounts. For once, non-twins stood out. “Yes!” said Andrew Spare, club president, when asked if he felt like a minority. “Everywhere you looked there were twins.” Most of the twins were from Ireland, but on hand were siblings from England and Spain. The youngest twins at the festival were five-month-olds from Carrickmacross. The oldest were Frank and Jimmy O’Byrne, 84- year-olds from County Mayo, who, at their age, had perfected the art of being twins. “They seemed to answer in unison,” marveled Spare. Like other twins at the festival, the O’Byrnes confessed to fooling girlfriends or teachers as to who was who. “I had my face slapped a time or two,” said Frank (or perhaps it was Jimmy). “Vice versa,” said his brother. Twins also revealed their strategy for when friends mistake one for the other. “We respond to the other name. It’s just too much trouble,” said Vincent, a young man from London. Brother Jason agreed it’s best to spare friends “the embarrassment.” Leading the parade, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, were two famous twins: Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf. The 17-month-olds were conjoined until separated at a London hospital. To rousing cheers, their mother, Angie, promised to return when her boys learned to walk. Angie also slyly downplayed her family’s well-known medical ordeal: “I used to think I had double trouble. Until I came here,” she said. The club raised about $14,000 from the festival for an Alzheimer’s day care center. The Carrickmacross area has about 30 sets of twins. A few weeks after the festival ended, that number climbed by one. “My daughter gave birth to a set of twins!” gushed Spare.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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