A summer holiday with the family (all 109 of them)

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The Independent Online

The holiday postcard that members of the Gigg family simply cannot send to each other this week is the one saying "Wish You Were Here". That's because they are already there - 109 of them.

The holiday postcard that members of the Gigg family simply cannot send to each other this week is the one saying "Wish You Were Here". That's because they are already there - 109 of them.

The Giggs, ranging in age from six months to 99, have taken over a holiday chalet park in the north Devon resort of Westward Ho! for a week-long get-together that has drawn family members from England, the east coast of America, the Middle East and Mozambique.

The clan is headed by 99-year-old George Gigg, a retired businessman from Norfolk, and includes his six children and their partners, who, between them, have provided him with 31 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren. The youngest is six-month-old Jack Greenfield from Hastings.

It is the biggest gathering yet in a family tradition that has been steadily growing for more than three decades. The event began at Braddicks holiday camp in 1969 as a convenient location for a family get-together, and has turned into an annual week-long pilgrimage. Giggs have married people from Africa, India, South America, North America, Israel and Austria. This year's most unusual method of arrival was by Timothy Greenfield, 29, one of the grandchildren, who cycled from Manchester with his girlfriend.

During the week, which costs about £5,000, the family socialises, builds a huge sandcastle on the beach and has a fancy-dress party. There are also organised sports for the children and a newsletter. Mr Gigg said: "It's lovely to see them every year, all together, particularly the little ones.''

Peter Richardson, 72, who is married to Faith, 72, one of Mr Gigg's four daughters, is responsible for organising the event. He said: "It's just got bigger and bigger. Some come and go, because they can't stay the whole week. There's some corporate activity, but we do our own catering and are all independent of each other. People also do their own thing, but the young children play with each other and have a great time. It's my wife who has the headache of arranging all the accommodation." They occupy 20 six- berth chalets, two of which are now owned by the Greenfields.

Richard Greenfield, a retired GP, and his wife, a retired nurse, who live in East Sussex, have themselves made a major contribution to the Gigg population, with 10 children and 25 grand-children, including baby Jack. Jack's mother, Carol Greenfield, 37, a nurse, married to Edward Greenfield, said: "It was a bit overwhelming at first when I married Ed, because I come from a small family, but everyone was so friendly.''

For all the Giggs, it is also a return to their family roots: George and Stella Gigg originally came from Devon and moved to Norfolk in the 1930s. He founded and built a successful business manufacturing rubber stamps, now called Stamps Direct.

But behind the happy annual event is a poignant story. The site was originally chosen in 1969 because Stella Giggs was terminally ill, and wanted to see all her family in one place; she died that year. The Giggs have been coming back ever since, booking the following year's holiday at the end of each one.

The company George Gigg founded has provided employment for three of his children. His eldest son, Tony, 73, was managing director, a job now performed by his daughter-in-law, Elizabeth. He said: "My father is 100 [next] June, and we will all be here in August to celebrate his birthday."

This year is the largest gathering yet, with a few friends of some of the teenagers boosting the numbers. The 19-strong American contingent, mostly the family of Mr Gigg's third daughter, Joy, only come every other year, because of the cost. But some cannot make this year's gathering: one of the younger family members is involved in a piano competition and a lawyer in the US branch is tied up with a case. So there is someone to send that postcard to after all.

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