Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Modest war hero's daughter dies on eve of book launch

A Tyrone woman will be buried this morning only hours before she had been due to host the launch of a book about the life of her late war hero father.

Kate McGeehan (55) died on Monday night after a seven-and-a-half year battle against cancer.

Her sister Geraldine Breslin died in the Omagh bombing in August 1998, aged 43.

And it was only after her death that Kate and her family discovered that their father Patrick McCrystal had served with distinction in the British Army during the Second World War.

A nationalist from Beragh in Co Tyrone, he had kept his military service a secret from his relatives.

But a former Army colleague who called to sympathise with the family over Mrs Breslin's death let it slip that their father had been injured during the siege of Malta, and also served in Palestine, Egypt and on the Greek island of Leros where he was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war for 18 months. Kate had her father's medals re-issued and encouraged him to take part in Remembrance Day commemorations and to tell his story.

He returned to Malta for the first time last last year, and died in January aged 92.

His book, A Long Road To Freedom, will be launched tonight in the Ulster History Park in Omagh.

Kate had been due to host the event, but her daughter Joni is going to speak instead.

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Geraldine Breslin was one of 29 people, plus two unborn twins, who were killed in the 1998 Real IRA bombing of Omagh. The 43-year-old married mother was from the Co Tyrone town and worked as an assistant in Watterson's clothes shop, which lost three staff in the atrocity. She was walking down the street during a tea break when the device exploded and she later died of horrific injuries in hospital.

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