Remembering our brother

Remembering members of our family is part of my ‘mission’ in life as the self appointed curator of the family history. So many close relatives have lived, loved, been loved and died, and are never ever remembered again. I like to try to find out about them, even if I never knew them, and keep them relevant by remembering them on anniversaries of birth, marriage or death.

There is one I did know and one whose death is never far from my mind. The 30th of June is here again and once more I am torn between updating a blog post about the death of our baby brother aged 15 months in 1959, or simply leaving it alone.

Last year, 2019, marked the 60th anniversary of his death and I tried but just could not make it to the end of a post to mark his anniversary. However, a couple of recent events have prompted me to update my post.

This photo of my 5 siblings and I was taken in June 1959. (Image thesilvervoice)

Canice, sitting on my lap, was having a bad day when this photograph was taken as he was teething and was out of sorts. He wasn’t much interested in sitting still anyhow and he was unhappy throughout the session.

Just a matter of days later he died. He had crawled under the wheel of a mail van, parked just outside our house, and was fatally injured when it moved off. In recent times I have found some newspaper reports of his death.

This was the death notice published on Wednesday July 1. He died on a Tuesday afternoon and the funeral was on Wednesday, straight to the graveyard. There was no funeral liturgy for children at this time.

The death notice in the national press.

An inquest was held in the local hotel in July. I recall my father being deeply distressed following the inquest.  He requested that the inquest be reconvened to put on the record that absolutely no blame whatsoever attached to George Fisher, the driver of the mail van. George was in our house twice every single day and he was such a kind gentle man. There was no way he could have spotted Canice under the van. and Dad did not want any cloud hanging over him. 

Londonderry Sentinel 8 July 1959 (British Newspaper Archives)
Donegal News 11 July 1959 (British Newspaper Archives)

The Acknowledgement was carried in the Irish Press in August 1959

Irish Press August 1959 (Irishnewspaperarchives)

Our mother kept Canice’s baby shoes and his beloved blue duck. I acquired them after she died in 1999. (The leather shoes need some conservation work after 61 years)

The scuffed shoes -even at 15 months Canice was not walking, and he made short work of the toes of his shoes! .

Some years ago while on holiday in Donegal and visiting Paddy Vaughan’s house I was shown two items that the late Mary Vaughan had kept and treasured. She had washed and bandaged and laid Canice into a coffin and had kept his Nappy Pin. It was at this time that I first saw the death notice that had appeared in the papers too.

Some weeks back I received a package in the post containing the pin and the death notice that Kevin Vaughan had looked after while his parents were alive.

Mementoes of a short life. (Image thesilvervoce)

It had actually never occured to me before that it must have been a very traumatic experience to have to lay out a badly injured small child. I believe Mrs Duffy helped with the sad task.

And reading the newspaper reports Joy Speer must also have been traumatized by what she saw – it was her screams that led my mother out to see what had happened. The local sergeant had chided my mother for lifting the body – apparently she should have left it where it lay to allow for a proper investigation. At this time there was no such thing as psychological support to people had to deal with their traumas as best they could.

Sophie McGroddy came to our aid that day and supported my mother and all of us. Breege Cullen who worked in the Hotel looked after me that evening and night. Both were brilliant.

John McClafferty enlarged one of the photos for my parents. It was so nice to have it.

Canice John Gallagher.

Born March 31 1958.

Died Jun 30th 1959.


Irish Newspaper Archives

British Newspaper Archives.


Filed under Ireland

22 responses to “Remembering our brother

  1. Such a sad story and how traumatic for all the family. Poor wee man to suffer so. Full credit to you for remembering him in this way. Sending hugs today.

  2. Barbara

    Angela this is so beautifully written. A devastating story, lovely to remember Canice in this way.

  3. yardsailor

    Thank you for sharing, my mother always kept my sister who died shortly after birth, alive for me.

  4. Bernadette Mellon

    Angela, that is so moving. I had heard of Canice over the years but to see his photo just brings home the reality. It must have been heartbreaking for you all but especially your dear Mam and Dad. I was a month old when Canice was born.

    • Thank you so much Bernadette. They had lived in Kilkenny – Goresbridge – as you know, so we think that’s where the name came from. It was a tough time for sure and I dont think Mum especaiily ever got over it – how would you. Keep safe!

  5. Can there be anything more difficult than burying one of your own children? How hard that must have been for your parents, for you and your siblings! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Kathy Scott

    It’s a beautiful thing you are doing to treasure Canice’s memory

  7. Such a sad story, and beautifully written.

  8. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anaimín dílis

  9. What a sadness for your family to go through. And you still keeping the memories alive!

  10. Kathleen Claire Flynn

    My father Thomas Flynn was from killinkere, Virginia County
    Cavan, I was raised in USA. But have lived in Ireland for several years in 1998- 2007. Your story is heartbreaking, I have a friend in Cavan who’s baby brother Jonathan died at 15 months suddenly, of illness. There were 13 children in the family, as you said, no thought of trauma experienced by the children. In your family photo, the little girl on the right is the image of myself. My father’s family originated from Donegal in the 1700’s. Do you have Flynn in your family tree?

    • It’s almost unbearably sad to lose a child in any circumstances I think. The little girl in the right is my sister who was 3. I must say that I have never heard of any Flynn connections at all in our family. Where in Donegal did they come from, and why the move to Cavan? Have you done DNA test? Thanks for dropping by!

  11. I am so sorry for your loss – how devastating this must have been for your family and the driver. The little shoes and duck made me shed a tear. I hope your brother is reunited with his loved ones on the other side. K x

  12. A deeply moving story – I do remember this from previous posts you have written. How devastating for both your family, the driver and onlookers. Beautiful and poignant tribute X

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