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A Remarkable Human Story

E-mails have became so much a feature of everyday life in the 21st century that it is a pleasure, indeed a joy, to receive on that tells a remarkable story about a young girl and her first venture into print when only sixteen years of age.

That it took place in 1921, 82 years ago, and only now is revealed by her daughter, is yet another tribute to the power of the Internet in strengthening links between generations, recalling incidents fast slipping from living memory.

Without elaboration or further commentary, here is the e-mail, published with the consent of its sender, Moira Fell:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 17:00:45 -0000

I was delighted to read on your website about your grandfather, John (Pa) McAdam, whom my mother, Mary Bridget Fell née Ward talked of a lot.

My mother worked for your grandfather at the Donegal Vindicator from about 1919 until 1923, not as a reporter but in the printing department.

Your grandfather did, however, publish a poem written by my mother in the Vindicator in 1921 called 'Memories', inspired by the loss of a childhood friend of hers by the name of 'Red' John Rooney, who died in dubious circumstances in a shooting accident on the Erne Bridge one night after curfew.

My mother was one of the Legaltion (Ballyshannon) Wards. After leaving Ballyshannon in 1923 she went to work in Derry for a dentist and some time later went to England, marrying an Englishman and settling there.

My father, Frank Fell ( English born but an Irishman at heart) died in 1968, and my mother in 1981.

Mary Bridget Ward, aged sixteen

I have returned from the land of the free,
To the home of my dear girlhood days,
I stand once again by the old Abbey Mill,
And hear the soft lull of the waves.
I look on the graveyard just there on the hill
My heart then grows heavy and sore,
For the pal of my childhood days lies there,
The pal I shall never see more.

The old wheel is broken that stands by the mill,
Still memories to me it recalls,
Of the happiest days my heart ever knew,
Spent there by the old ruined walls.
When we were so youthful, how little we thought
Of the future and what it might hold,
Of the sorrows and sighs and seldom the joys
That makes life seem so empty and cold.

Then my gaze wanders down to the old Abbey Wall,
My eyes fill with quick sudden tears
When I think of the first day we went there to pray,
I've remembered it through all the years;
So sweet river Erne flow gently on,
Don't disturb his long rest by the sea,
And as I tread softly past the spot where he lies,
I shall murmur a prayer that his soul it is free.

The graveyard, how lonely it looks to me now,
With it's tombstones so gaunt and so bare;
The trees all seem withered. the flowers seem dead,
That once looked so sweet and so fair.
But my friend he is sleeping that long, long last sleep
By the mill that we both loved in yore,
And I am consoled for I know we shall meet
In a land that is bright evermore.

Moira Fell's e-mail was the result of reading The Vindicator Story. That Pa McAdam welcomed the young poet to the pages of his newspaper is reminiscent of his own introduction to newspaper life in the pages of "The Glasgow Herald". In both cases the loss of an early friend, one by drowning, the other by shooting, inspired Pa and the sixteen year old Mary Bridget Ward, to commit their feelings to paper.

May all four souls be happily reunited "In a land that is bright evermore".

The full story doesn't end there. In a subsequent e-mail Moira wrote:

I had the good fortune of spending the duration of World War Two in Legaltion, Ballyshannon, away from the Blitz, safe in my granny's little cottage on a hill.

Reading about Bob Devitt in "Of Early Life in 'the Purt' " evoked many memories. I suddenly had a mental picture of Bob sitting in my grandmother's kitchen in Legaltion handing her his tin porringer to be filled with tea.

He'd sit there for a while before asking politely if she wanted to buy any needles. He'd then produce from his many pockets little packages of brown paper, and open them one by one revealing the contents--needles and pins, some bent, some rusty but few whole.

Then the next question would always be, "Any black thread, Ma'am, all shades of black thread, Ma'am, all shades of black." Granny always made him welcome and always bought needles and thread from him. I don't remember ever being afraid of him.

Bob Devitt The story of Bob Devitt has twice been featured on this site, complete with the only known photograph of "the gentle giant", forwarded from a reader in Texas. That he should be so widely remembered more than four decades after his death, when only one person had the charity to attend his funeral, is also a truly remarkable story. May a choir of angels attend him in Heaven.


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