Belfast Telegraph

Family of prized Co Tyrone poet fund his headstone 124 years after death

'Around 100 members of his family from around the world will meet up next month in Strabane, where local priest Fr Declan Boland will celebrate Mass in memory of the bard and dedicate the headstone' (stock photo)
'Around 100 members of his family from around the world will meet up next month in Strabane, where local priest Fr Declan Boland will celebrate Mass in memory of the bard and dedicate the headstone' (stock photo)
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The family of a poet from Co Tyrone will gather in Strabane next month to erect a headstone on his grave over 100 years after his death.

John McCrossan, known as the Evish Bard, passed away in 1895.

He lay in an unmarked grave until his fifth generation descendants in America, after tracing their family heritage, raised the money for a headstone.

Around 100 members of his family from around the world will meet up next month in Strabane, where local priest Fr Declan Boland will celebrate Mass in memory of the bard and dedicate the headstone.

Patrick McCrossan from New York, who is the great-great grandson of John McCrossan, began tracing his family heritage in 2005. It was a search that brought him to Tyrone.

Mr McCrossan's cousin Rebecca (Reba) McDaid Longhorn helped in his research.

Her interest was sparked after she received an obituary about the poet printed in the local paper dated at the time of his death.

Mr McCrossan said: "Poet John died in 1895 and to date did not have a headstone, leaving his grave unidentifiable.

"This was despite him being locally recognised and with a prized collection of published poems that are still in circulation.

"In the 1980s one of poet John's grandchildren gave my cousin Reba the obituary of poet John printed by the Derry Journal in 1895.

"Reba spent many years researching his life while discovering many of his poems and wrote the most extensive biography to date.

"Copies of that story were given to me in 2005 during my first trip to Strabane and since then our family has built a strong bridge of frequent visits to Strabane and meetings together around the world."

Mr McCrossan, in consultation with other members of the extended family in America, decided to launch a GoFundMe page to raise the necessary funds for a headstone.

A family gathering has been organised for September, including a Mass celebrated by Fr Boland in the Immaculate Conception Church, which John McCrossan penned a poem about.

Mr McCrossan said: "While this family gathering is exciting, it is also incredible that poet John wrote a poem titled The Chapel Bell about the opening of the 'new' church in Strabane, which is the Immaculate Conception Church.

"There are no photos of John. Yet with this headstone, we can see all of our passion for our dear poet John and heritage poured into something that we can touch and admire."

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