Relatives of a young couple who died in an accident in Letterkenny 76 years ago were among a large crowd that turned out for the unveiling of a plaque in their memory.
The plaque was unveiled near the old laundry site in Oldtown, in memory of Daniel Doherty and Annie Herald who drowned on October 7 1945.
They died after falling through a wooden floor and plunging into a well, twenty-five feet beneath them.
Local historian Colm McDaid organised last Thursday’s event to mark the anniversary. He invited those related to them, and all interested parties, to come along to mark the event.
The idea of the commemoration came about during lockdown. He had heard part of Danny and Annie’s, known as Nan, story being told in the Oldtown many years ago.
Mr McDaid said he was taken aback by the turnout at the event.
“I was very surprised at the turnout. There were a lot of family members there including some who travelled from Co Down,” he said.
“A lot of the nearest and dearest, including direct nieces and nephews were there. There is a massive connection in Letterkenny, Ballybofey and Drumkeen.”
Mr McDaid thanked Donegal County Council and Letterkenny’s mayor Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh for helping to organise the erection of the plaque.
Mr McDaid carried out a lot of research to ascertain details about both Danny and Annie. He invested a lot of time and effort into the momentous research finding birth and death certificates and unearthed stories pertaining to the family and their journey through life.
He was so moved by their story, he penned a poem commemorating Danny and Annie. In this poem, Colm recounts how Danny Doherty from Leglands and Annie Herald from Oldtown met up on a wet and cold October evening. Annie had earlier left her home and walked to the Cathedral for her evening devotion and as she walked she may have heard the burn, behind her home, bubbling with overflowing rainwater.
Danny had also left home, excited to meet his sweetheart, he lifted young Mary McGee upon his shoulders and walked along laughing - a smile on both their faces as the October evening darkened.
Colm recounts that Annie and Danny were in good spirits and bound for a dance in the Devlin Hall later. The two met and as they walked over Oldtown the rain fell harder and heavier, they took shelter in a shed covered with a tin roof at the laundry. They embraced one another as the rain pelted off the rusted tin roof - both unaware of the aged wooden floor beneath them that would collapse plunging them to their death.
That night marked a tragedy in the lives of both families. Annie’s father James Herald sat waiting in the corner house for his only daughter, Annie, to return on that dark fateful night.
The following morning as James rose, heavy-hearted and burdened with worry, he went to work passing near the laundry gate, not knowing his daughter’s body lay inside.
The rumour mill began to overflow and around the town, people began to say that the two lovers had eloped. However, the igniting gossip was soon extinguished by harsh, cold, cruel reality.
Pat McFeeley was making his way to work when from the corner of his eye he noticed a blue raincoat lying beside an open door. Instinct told him that something was not right.
The story unfolds, in Colm’s fitting poem: “He looked inside at that broken floor, but could not see down the dark well, But his instinct told him to seek help, as someone must have fell, Sergeant McDaid and Garda Hegarty, got there in quick time, This sight that awaited them, was indeed a tragic find, A flashlamp was shone down, it lit the darkness with its glow, Two young lifeless bodies within a watery grave, was the sight below, The bodies they were then retrieved, for post mortem they did go.”
Danny and Annie were buried in Ray Graveyard and DrumkeenGraveyard.
In years to come, Colm’s poem will tell the story of two lovers who met their untimely death - a difficult story to tell.
However, for Colm one of the hardest parts of the story was hearing that in her raincoat pocket, Annie had a wee bag of sweets that Danny had bought her earlier in Bradley’s shop.
Colm hopes that this evening’s event will bring people to pause and remember as they pass the laundry in Oldtown:
“It is part of the history of our community - I hope that people will pause and remember them.”
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