Miss Margaret Fianoula Oonagh O'Byrne was born in Kircknacarry on May 18 - 1922 and lived in Cloonaconnelly since 1945. No occupation. Relatives of Miss O'Byrne unknown.
To whom it may concern, please contact below if you have any information about relatives of Miss O'Byrne.
Campbell Clarke and Maguire, Solicitors
Cloonaconelly, March 23, 1962"
The small piece of yellowed paper, cut from a newspaper, swirled down from the drawer where I looked for the archive of my ancestors. I did not know where it came from and to which file it belonged. And I would not have paid any attention to it if the name O'Byrne hadn't caused a strange stir in my stomach. A feeling I could not explain.
I read the announcement over and over again and tried to remember where I heard the name before. Although not an uncommon surname, I never met an O'Byrne and I had never heard of the town or village Cloonaconelly. I turned to the computer next to me and Googled the town which turned out to be an old village in Northern Ireland, 300 miles from where I lived. I logged on to the telephone directory and found the solicitors, still listed with all three names. I did however, not find 'O'Byrne' which wasn't a great surprise given the fact that according the announcement, relatives were unknown.
It was very quiet in the archive of the Genealogical Foundation, there were no other people. What I did next was against my character and the rules of the Foundation; I hid the piece of paper in my wallet, closed the drawer with the files and left for home where I spent much time studying the family tree that partly covered the wall of my study, to look for any clues. I was determined to find the cause of that strange stir and it was only logical to search within my family. But nothing at all indicated I was in some way related to Miss Margaret as I called her. Still......
During a week of studying, thinking, reading and bad sleeping, I had a dream, a very strange dream in which a voice mentioned I was not a legitimate Kavanagh. The voice told me to go back to the archive and the look for my birth certificate.
So I did, I spent hours and hours going through files in drawers and on the Internet but my birth was no where mentioned. Oh yes, I did have a birth certificate but how odd that it was never registered!!
The voice never returned but had seeded serious doubts about my origin. Were the people that I called Mum and Dad my real parents? Was my marriage that tragically ended with the sudden death of my beloved wife, legal? What was my real name? Who was I? I copied my original birth certificate and asked a friend specialised in old documents, to take a look at it.
The outcome although not unexpected, turned my whole life upside down: it was an excellent falsification.
I decided to travel to Cloonaconnelly, contacted Campbell, Clark and Maguire for an appointment with Maguire Junior who recommended the Lion Inn and booked a train.
My visit to the solicitors was shocking. Maguire Junior, concerned about my well being, asked his secretary for sandwiches and a pot of strong tea. He also asked her to cancel his next appointments. He too understood that my history was totally rewritten by the find of the announcement.
A local newspaper from 1946, attached to the will of Miss O'Byrne told a story I had not found on the Internet. The story of the young mother that moved to a small village in Northern Ireland, in the last month of her pregnancy. She was well mannered and obviously wealthy but there was no husband. He died not long ago; he never recovered from the injuries from the Second World War, so she said. People called her Miss instead of Mrs and she never corrected them. She was a loner and became a hermit after the enormous tragedy 3 months after she gave birth to her child, a lovely boy with blond hair and blue eyes.
When Miss O'Byrne was in the garden with doors and windows open due to the lovely warm weather, her son was stolen from his cradle. She was devastated, cried, blamed herself, searched day and night.So did the police but her child seemed to have vanished in thin air. Evil tongues spoke against her: she killed her own son and buried him in the garden. Though after she passed away in 1962, no remains were found.
She lost contact with the villagers and turned out to be dead for several days when she was found. Post mortem revealed that she died of natural courses. "A broken heart"said the kind villagers. "Of guilt" said the gossipers. The police found a letter to the solicitors who put the announcement in the newspaper but no one ever turned up.
After numerous cups of tea and two sandwiches, Maguire Junior showed me an old photograph, a sepia portrait of a young woman. I looked at it and was shocked to see a very young and female edition of my own face and than I knew what the solicitor already understood: I was that little boy that suddenly disappeared.
We parted with an appointment for the next day, I walked to the hotel where I spent hours and hours to come to terms with my past but I failed. It was too much to take in.
The next morning I was given an envelope with a handwritten letter and 2 keys and the address of my mother's villa. I was told to expect a derelict house after decades of neglect and to be careful stepping on wooden floors and climbing stairs.
The large key was of the front door with the rusty hinges that made a ghostly creaking sound when I firmly pushed. My feet hit a large pile of old papers that released a musty smell of decay. I carefully walked through the house, still furnished as she left it when she died. Everything was covered in thick layers of dust that danced in the light peeping through the holes of the fading curtains.
Wallpaper, once with bright roses, curled down the walls like forgotten flowers. Carpets muffled the sound of my feet. I stood still in the middle of the room and listened to noises from the past. Did she sing for me? Could I still hear her voice to which I had no memory at all? Did she walk up and down the room with me if I cried? So many questions but the only answers were silence, total deep silence.
I looked for a door for the second key but did not find it until I was upstairs where only one door was locked. To my astonishment, nor the key or hinges made a noise, the door swung open if it hadn't been locked for so long. I wasn't prepared for what I saw and I only noticed I was crying when I tasted my salt tears. In front of me stood a cradle.
A beautiful cradle made from the finest willow branches, now touched by time, and partly covered by beautiful expensive lace, too delicate to touch. The lace that she touched with her hands, the lace that protected the baby...... me. Did she smile when she looked through the lace at my face? Did her hands carefully fold it away before she lifted me in her arms? I imagined I heard her voice, a soft whisper. Or was it the wind?
I do not know how long I stood there till I finally noticed the news papers scattered on the floor. The newspapers that mentioned the tragedy of the lost baby. The mingled ink and letters witnesses of her many tears. Her grief.
|Photo: Darren Nisbett Fine Art Photography|
I finally read the letter my mother wrote to me, as if she knew one day I was going to find my true roots.
And finally I could hear her cry, loud and grieving, full of sorrow and pain.
Or was it the house that groaned under the weight of 70 lost years?
Word of thanks: the photo of @darrennisbett (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you Darren!
Link: the beautiful website Darren Nisbett Fine Art Photography
Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!