Laois’ ladies may be looking forward to Valentine’s Day but a few hearts will almost certainly be a flutter sometime this year as hopes grow of a visit to the county in April by Hollywood star George Clooney.
Clooney’s Abbeyleix cousins are inviting the star to stop by during his rumoured motorbike holiday to Ireland.
Last week the Abbeyleix connection received national publicity, when it was revealed that George’s distant aunt Sarah Clooney worked in the local carpet factory that supplied the Titanic, particularly revelvant as the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated ocean liner is commemorated this year.
The Clooneys of Abbeyleix knew about their Kentucky relations long before that however, as Sarah’s great great grand niece Fiona Clooney told the Leinster Express.
“Our cousins Anthony and Mary Persil created a family tree seven years ago, so we’ve known since then,” Fiona says.
Since the discovery, they have befriended George’s parents Nicholas and Nina, who visited Ireland to meet them two years ago. Fiona also went to see them, and next month she plans another trip, along with Kilkenny filmmaker and historian Gabriel Murray, as part of a documentary entitled “George Clooney’s Irish Roots”.
“Hopefully he will visit this summer. We’ve been working on it. It would be great for Laois. I am hoping to ask his dad about it,” she said.
Fiona and George’s great great great grandfathers were brothers from Kilkenny. When the famine hit in the 1850’s, one went to America, and one to Abbeyleix. Over the past few months, Fiona has spent her weekends helping with the documentary, due for completion in April, just before the expected visit.
Last December Fiona, her parents Seamus and Agnes and other family members met up with their Kilkenny Clooney relations, for an evening of song and shared photos, filmed in Kilkenny as part of the documentary. They are busy researching links forged between Sarah, and George’s aunt, singer Rosemary Clooney, who it is believed wrote to each other.
“The family would have known each other, but lost touch over the years. Some really interesting little stories have come to light, it’s been quite good,” said Fiona, a member of the Abbeyleix Heritage Town Tourism committee.
“If George does come home, it will really help to promote the town as a tourist destination,” she said.
Local band Abbeyfest have even recorded a song in anticipation of the visit.
“Here’s to you, George Clooney” filmed in the famous pub Morrisseys, and available on youtube.