Belfast Telegraph

Home for Christmas - thousands land back in Northern Ireland for festive family gatherings

By Joanne Fleming

Tears, hugs and laughter greeted some of the tens of thousands of travellers heading home for Christmas in emotional scenes at Northern Ireland's airports yesterday.

Anxious parents greeting returning students, proud grandparents, and babies experiencing their first Christmas were among those packed into the arrivals halls of Belfast International and George Best Belfast City Airports.

Aldergrove said it was breaking records and expecting its busiest day today, with more than 120 flights carrying in the region of 20,000 passengers.

And the City Airport said more than 10,000 passengers would pass through each day in the week running up to Christmas.

Beaming Londonderry grandad Billy McFeely wrapped daughter Erin Richardson and one-year-old granddaughter Isla in a huge embrace as they arrived in on the Leeds flight at the City Airport.

Father-of-four Billy said: "I also have two girls in Belfast and one in Liverpool. We will have everyone together for the first time in five years... I'll be surrounded by women!"

Erin said: "This will be Isla's first Christmas in Ireland. I will have a house full of babysitters."

Karen Parker from Crumlin was excitedly waiting for her sister Anne Sinclair, who left home in 1989, and her family from London - husband Paul and daughters Esme (9) and Grace (14). Anne explained that the children loved spending every Christmas in Northern Ireland.

"I grew up in the country and wanted to move to London, now the children want to be in the country," she said. Grace confirmed that: "It's a very cosy house and there is an actual fire."

Five-month-old Danny Clerkin was all smiles as he waited for his godmother Rachael Heatley (34) to arrive home from London. He was accompanied by mum Natalie (34) and her brother Jack (13).

"Rachael and I used to live in London together," said Natalie. "We are looking forward to more family time together. It's a changed world when you have a baby. You can't do as much partying."

Also at the airport was proud mum Anne Morgan, who met daughter Emma (25) with the promise of doing a "lot of looking after her". Emma came all the way from Boston, where she has worked as a financial consultant for the past two years.

"I was home for Christmas last year," said Emma. "I love seeing family and friends."

Also at the City Airport were Rosemary and Francis Bradley, from Derry, accompanied by three-year-old grandson Ben. They were there to welcome daughter Tina (23) home from Manchester, where she works in the software industry.

"I am looking forward to mum's cooking - and the chippie," said Tina.

"She has no option but to come home," Rosemary laughed.

Helen Argument (79), from Whitby, can't wait to spend Christmas in the Ards Peninsula townland of Ballyeasborough. She was greeted by her daughter Jackie Magennis (53), who left the Yorkshire seaside town in 1989.

"She came here for a holiday, met someone and that was it," said Helen. "It was heartbreaking when she left, but I love coming to see her."

Jackie added: "We can see the sea and the lough from the house, and the Mournes." At Belfast International student Jack Crory (21), home with a backpack full of washing, travelled from Fort William in Scotland where he is undertaking an outdoor education course. He was warmly welcomed by parents Pauline and Peter from Ballynahinch. "I'll just be relaxing, but I may try to fit in a bit of kayaking, I'll have to see," said Jack of his Christmas plans.

At just 11 months, baby Rose Little Woodhouse was making her first visit. Doting mums Michaela Little Woodhouse (38) and her wife Jill Little Woodhouse (36) live in Glasgow. "I have been away for 17 years and was in Glasgow originally for studies, and settled there," said Michaela. "We will be spending Christmas in Ballycastle. I have a big, big family. I am looking forward to a Boxing Day walk on the beach."

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