Wife of tragic Portadown fisherman Daryl Burke gives birth clutching his photograph
A widowed mother whose husband died in a tragic boating accident has described her newborn baby girl as her "ray of light in the darkness".
Portadown man Daryl Burke (30) was fishing with two other men when their boat capsized during a squall on Lough Ree near Athlone, Co Westmeath, in March.
He left behind three young sons and his wife Louise (28), who was pregnant with their first daughter.
On May 3 Louise gave birth to Ella Louise Daryl Burke at 10.56am in Craigavon Hospital. Baby Ella weighed in at 7lbs 4.5ozs.
Louise kept a photo of her husband close to her chest throughout the birth.
"It was really tough, really emotional," she said. "I had a photograph of Daryl on my chest the whole way through the labour.
"He had been there at the birth of all our boys and it was tough not having him there.
"But, still, it felt like he was with us in spirit. I had his photo with me and thought: 'He's still here'."
Louise added: "I couldn't wait to have Ella, but at the same time I was dreading it. It was a real bittersweet moment."
Louise was joined by her sister-in-law in the delivery room.
"It was lovely to have somebody with me during the birth, but unfortunately it just wasn't the right person.
"When Ella was born I put the photo in her wee cot and it was in beside her. Even now I have his photo pinned inside her car seat, so even when we go out in the car we will never forget him."
Daryl was ecstatic about having a girl and the couple had picked her name together. But after the accident Louise poignantly added 'Daryl' to Ella's list of names.
"On Christmas Eve when we found out we were having a girl we promised we would keep it a secret that she was a girl.
"But we were only home an hour when he blabbed. He couldn't hold it in; he tried but he couldn't.
"We never planned to call her Daryl, but after the accident I thought it was appropriate.
"I thought it was lovely that she has that wee piece of her daddy too."
The first piece of clothing the beautiful baby wore was the first thing her dad had bought for her.
"He bought her first pink baby -grow and I put it on her when she was born in the hospital," said Louise. "It was lovely."
And Ella's three brothers have welcomed her with open arms. "The boys love her, they are like three wee guard dogs around the Moses basket."
Louise was supported throughout the pregnancy and birth by her family, friends and members of the Portadown Pikers angling club.
Before Daryl's accident he put away a piece of jewellery for each of his children, and his wedding ring has been kept for baby Ella.
The tot was born just weeks after her father drowned while fishing on March 20. The 30-year-old and his friend David Warnock (27), from Richhill, died when their boat sank in rough conditions.
A third friend, 60-year-old John Trimble, survived. Daryl's body was missing for two weeks and his family and friends kept vigil on the shore of the lough while extensive searches were carried out.
The brave mother said she still found it difficult to comprehend that her husband was gone.
"I just pretend it hasn't really happened; as far as I'm concerned and he's still going to come home," she said.
Looking to the future, Louise said her precious little girl gave her strength. "She has been the ray of light that is in the darkness without a doubt. She has picked everybody's spirits up."
Louise added: "It will be very tough in the days ahead. It's the times like Ella's first day at nursery – days when Daryl really should be there, but he's not."