At 87, Justine Payne loves big reunions in Attunga

AS FAMILY reunions go, they don’t get much bigger than the Payne family’s biennial Christmas gatherings.

The Payne clan gathered near Attunga on Christmas and Boxing days, with 70 people enjoying lunch on Christmas Day and about 50 there for lunch the next day.

They celebrated at the old family home – the former Attunga school, about 5.5 kilometres out of the village on the Kaytoun Rd, which closed in 1947. 

The matriarch of the family, Justine Payne, was one of 11 brothers and sisters who lived at Muswellbrook, but Justine moved to Attunga when she married Arnold Payne, of Attunga.

She had 12 children and now has 26 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.

Justine and Arnold’s 12-year-old son, Robert Payne, was accidentally killed by a shotput at a Tamworth school carnival 50 years ago.

But her 11 surviving children, their families, relatives and friends gathered from as far away as Switzerland, Africa, Western Australia, Kurrajong, Camden and the Central Coast. 

Justine, at 87, is the eldest of the nine surviving siblings, her sister Margaret Dolahenty, 74, said.

The two days were lots of fun, Miss Dolahenty said, with backyard cricket and Monopoly played.

There was a cake with a photo of the house on it made by Justine’s granddaughter Jennifer Mitchell from Gatton, in Queensland. 

Peter Payne, 42, Justine and Arnold’s youngest son, said it was a good couple of days.

“Just catching up with everyone, seeing people, the nieces and nephews that you haven’t seen for a while,” he said.

Peter’s sister, Jennifer Janson, said they would probably have the gathering every three to five years from now on.

“All our children are now adults and they’re getting married and having children and it’s harder to get together every two years,” Mrs Janson said.

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