Long Lost Cousins Meet Each Other by Chance in the Middle of the Ocean — Now They’re Bonded for Life

Inspiring Stories

When Eileen Monaghan embarked on a cruise in 2015, she thought she was only celebrating her birthday– what she encountered on the cruise shook her world.

Eileen’s cousin Nora died the previous year, in 2014– marking not only the loss of a beloved older relative but also the last link to her Irish lineage.

See, Eileen’s grandmother originally emigrated from the village of Shalvey, in Donegal, Ireland in the late 1800s. As a child growing up in America, a young Eileen particularly enjoyed hearing her grandmother’s stories of Ireland, and became fascinated by her Irish roots.

When Eileen and her husband Gerard would eventually make trips to the mother country, Nora was the point of contact for the couple. They both fondly recall her hospitality, always prepared with an open door and a hot kettle of tea for the travelers.

“She’d be charming, delightful and wonderful,” Eileen recalls to a news outlet.

Eileen and Nora enjoyed a blossoming relationship as they got older, staying in touch through letters, and the infrequent, far, trip to Ireland for the American couple.

It was through their pen-pal relationship that Eileen actually found out of her cousin’s passing. Apparently, an unopened holiday card was returned to Eileen by the mail service, with the harrowing inscription “deceased” written across the front. Suddenly, Eileen’s family lineage felt further away, her last personal link to Ireland now gone.

An Unexpected Chance Encounter

(Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels)

Fast forward a year, and a retired Eileen and Gerard decided to take a cruise on board Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth cruise ship to celebrate her 70th birthday.

About halfway through the cruise, Gerard was in the elevator, and overheard a conversation between the couple standing next to him.

His interest was piqued when he noticed that their accents sounded Irish, and Gerard chimed in.

“Lovely lilt,” he commented. “Where are you from?”

“From the North, County Derry,” said the man.

“Oh that’s next door to Donegal,” said Gerard, showcasing his familiarity with the country. “My wife’s family is from Shalvey.”

His elevator companion looked shocked, and added that he had a cousin in Shalvey who died the previous year.

Gerard stared at him in disbelief. The tiny town of Shalvey had a population of no more than 15 people, and it seemed far too coincidental that both had cousins pass away in the small town that previous year.

“Nora?” Gerard asked.

Much to his surprise, his new companion’s eyes widened, and he confirmed his cousin was Nora– as it dawned on both of them that the long lost cousins were about to reunite in the middle of the ocean on a cruise.

The guest introduced him and his wife as Paddy and Hazel McEvoy, distant cousins of Eileen.

The Beginnings of an Excellent Friendship


The group arranged for a post-dinner drink, to celebrate Eileen’s milestone birthday, and Gerard rushed back to the room to tell his wife the unbelievable news.

“I don’t believe this is happening,” Eileen recalls thinking.

The unexpected family reunion turned into an hours-long conversation about family, nationality and everything in between.

“By the time we got through talking about all the relatives on both sides, it was time to go home,” jokes Paddy. “But we did squeeze in a few words about travels here and there.”

“We’ve both done a lot of traveling in our time,” adds his wife Hazel. “We compared stories of travels around the world.”

For the rest of the cruise, the newly formed group spent a lot of time together, meeting for drinks before and after dinner every night. There was certainly a lot to catch up on, and the foursome found they had a lot more in common than a distant cousin. It turns out both couples had sons living in Boston, and enjoyed debating history, religion, and politics. They are also all avid travelers, which was what brought them together in the first place!

They exchanged contact information when the cruise ended, and made plans for a reunion back on land.

Bonded for Life


Since the cruise, the couples have visited each other’s respective countries, and struck up a beautiful friendship.

“We’ve been friends ever since and we visit across the Atlantic regularly now to see one another,” Hazel said.

Through this relationship, Eileen reconnected with a side of her lineage she thought disappeared with the passing of her cousin Nora.

When trying to analyze their family trees and deduce their relationship, Eileen guessed, “I think it makes us fifth cousins or something.”

“Oh no,” added Paddy. “We’re much more than that. We’re friends.”

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