A casual comment from Gladys Rimmer Armstrong's mother resulted in reuniting Rimmers from all over the world.
"My mum once said 'That would be a night to remember; a roomful of Rimmers'," said Gladys.
Although a passing remark it inspired Gladys to get as many Rimmers as possible under the same roof.
The response was overwhelming. Over a 100 people spanning six generations attended the reunion.
She also traced 400 Rimmers from all over Lancashire and beyond. "We found ancestors from as far afield as Australia, USA and Canada."
Her eyes still light up when she recalls the reunion in 2002 which was subject of the BBC Radio Lancashire documentary 'A Roomful of Rimmers'. "It was such an exciting night. I was overwhelmed with the number of people who turned up."
Ninety five year old Mary Rimmer - Gladys' aunty who brought her up - was the oldest member of the family at the knees-up. She has since died but at her funeral the reunion was described as the 'highlight of her life'.
Gladys fills up. "My Aunty Mary absolutely loved it. She kept saying 'Isn't this wonderful?' all night."
Robert Gerald Rimmer - who is originally from Marshside - was taken aback when he went to the original get together. He comes from three generations of shrimpers and even at 80 years old he still shrimps today. "It's such a huge gathering of Rimmers it is mind-boggling. I didn't know we had that many relations," said Robert.
Gladys never envisaged how much interest the reunion would generate. Two years on and her phone was still ringing constantly from her namesakes, so she founded the Rimmer Family History Society. Celebrity chef Simon Rimmer - whose ancestors are from Blackburn - is president of the society.
Her friends David and Doreen Rimmer from Leyland - amongst others - help her run it. "They said if I ever needed any help to let them know. When I set up the society I took them up on their offer."
Since establishing the society in 2004 the Rimmer reunion is an annual event, meeting up every October. Gladys explains: "Every year there is a night to remember. Each year we manage to connect Rimmers. Last year, for instance, three ladies came and went home realising they were all cousins. That's what it's all about; connecting people."
Buford Edison runs reunions in the US and is an honorary member of RFHS
It is hardly surprising Gladys' fascination with her family's name: she is a pure bred Rimmer as her mother and father were both Rimmers. "I have ten Rimmer bloodlines in my veins," she says proudly.
Gladys is one of the 'sea cop Rimmers' so-called because it was the name of the house her maternal grandfather John Rimmer took his bride to live in back in 1898. The sixth of nine children, Gladys has three children and six grandchildren continuing the 'sea cop Rimmer' line.
The name is Nordic and was thought to have been brought over by the Vikings when they departed Ireland. "People say we are interbred but four Viking families landed on the West Lancashire coast," Gladys stresses.
Through her research Gladys has adopted a new family in the USA. She said: "I now class the people I have met in America as my extended family."
Via her research, she got acquainted with Buford Edison from North Carolina who has been organising Rimmer reunions Stateside for over 50 years.
Gladys has been to numerous events in the US he has organised to give talks on her work and describes Buford as "my inspiration". The 97 year old - who is an honorary member of the society - boasts 9000 Rimmers in his family tree.
ORIGINS OF RIMMER
The roots of the name can be found in the Domesday book. Otegrimele 'place of Grim's sandhill'. The name Grim (or Grimr) with a silent or 'soft' g - became Rymer/ Rimer/Rimmer
Gladys is hoping to emulate his success one day, too.
It may have started from a casual remark by her mother but Gladys says 'it snowballed since the original reunion and the feature on BBC Radio Lancashire'.
She explained the mission of the society: "Our objective is to establish contact with Rimmers and unite Rimmers worldwide."
The fifth annual reunion will be held on 11 October 2009 at Fleetwood Hesketh Sports and Social Club, Southport.
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