Letterkenny to rememeber double drowning tragedy

A MEMORIAL plaque is to be unveiled in Letterkenny marking 76 years since a couple tragically drowned. 
Annie Harold (29), from Oldtown, and Daniel Doherty (45), of Leglands, Drumkeen, lost their lives in an accidental drowning in a well near a laundry at Oldtown on October 7, 1945.
The nearest living relatives of the couple, who had been dating for two years, will attend the poignant unveiling of a plaque in their memory on Thursday, close to the site where the tragedy unfolded.
Oldtown resident, Colm McDaid is behind the move. Speaking to the Donegal News, he said growing up in the area he was always aware of the tragic story, but it wasn’t until Covid-19 lockdown that he began to really delve into it.
He has spent many hours trawling through microfilm news archives from the time in a bid to learn more about the awful events which were keenly felt near and afar.
“Having grown up in Letterkenny, I had heard this story once or twice. I was always aware of of it but it was during lockdown that I thought I must look more into it. Annie Harold lived on the opposite side of the road to the Hideout, as it is known locally. Her boyfriend, Daniel Doherty, was from Drumkeen.
“It was a very bad night and the pair had gone into the tin hut when the floor gave way beneath them and they drowned.”
Mr McDaid’s research included chats with numerous people around the county.
The couple’s nearest living relatives will attend the unveiling. They include Willie Bonner, who is a nephew of Daniel Doherty.
“Daniel Doherty was originally from Derry and his family moved to rural Drumkeen when he was very young. Everyone in the locality seemed to know the couple and they were very well liked and popular,” he said.
Mr McDaid is being assisted by Donegal County Council and Mayor of Mayor of Letterkenny-Milford Municipal District, Cllr Jimmy Kavanagh
“The Council has given full permission for the plaque to be unveiled.  Councillor Kavanagh and Cllr Gerry McMonagle have been helping me in this regard. The plaque will be situated where the old laundry was. Local residents have said they are in favour of the plan to remember the couple,” said Mr McDaid.
In a news article featured in the ‘Derry People Donegal News’ dated October 13, 1945, the Coroner of the time, Dr J. P. McGinley dismissed salacious rumours surrounding the tragedy.
 “When the tragedy was first reported, sensation mongers got busy, idle tongues began to wag and then there was talk of a suicide pact. But it will be consolation to the bereaved relatives to know that the wild rumours have been laid, and that this was a pure, unforeseeable accident,” he had said.
The coroner said the affair was a very unfortunate and gruesome one.
“Anyone looking at the place would see at once that it was a pure accident – an opinion also held by gardaí,” Dr McGinley had said.
He said it was probable the couple took shelter from the rain, that they opened the door, stepped in and that the structure gave way and they were precipitated to the bottom.
“There was nothing sensational or dramatic about the incident.”
In the article, the Coroner tells of how he had known Ms Harold, describing her as “industrious, popular and good living”. He expressed deep sympathy with the relatives of Mr Doherty and Miss Harold.”
Miss Harold was employed by the Donegal Bacon Co., Ltd.
“The discovery of the bodies on Monday shocked and grieved the people of the district as Mr Doherty and Miss Harold, who were stated to have been keeping company for the past two years, were deeply respected and extremely popular over a wide area.”
The article details how Miss Annie Harold’s father, James Harold, became aware something awful had happened.
“On that Sunday evening, Miss Harold went to devotions at 7 o’clock, in the Cathedral.  She returned about an hour later and went out again about nine, saying she was going to a play in the Devlin Hall. She told her mother she would be back at about 10.30pm or 11 o’clock.
“The next morning when he left home at 7.30am for his work, Miss Harold had still not returned. Whilst at work at Kiltoy he was informed that the bodies had been found in the laundry well.
“Alice Kennedy, Oldtown, said that, accompanied by her two sisters and Annie Harold, she went to devotions on Sunday evening in the cathedral. Witness and her sisters returned with Annie Harold to Oldtown.
“At about 9 o’clock when witness was on her way to a ceilidhe in the Park, she saw Daniel Doherty and Annie Harold at Oldtown. They appeared to come from the direction of the town. They spoke and went on their way,” the article states.
“Patrick McFeely, mechanic at the laundry, said he arrived at the laundry on Monday morning at 10.30am. By that time he had heard a rumour that Annie Harold had gone to get married.
“Witness noted that the door was open and that he saw a lady’s coat lying at the door. The timber, covering the well was broken. The well door was not locked, but wire, which kept it closed, had evidently been removed. As a rule, the door was locked but the lock was broken about a fortnight ago.
“Witness, with the aid of a flash lamp, examined the well and saw the fully clothed body of a woman floating in the water.
“With the assistance from other gardaí, witness recovered the body. The he went down the ladder into the well an by using grappling irons helped to recover the body of a man. Where the bodies were found, the water was 10 feet deep.”
Letterkenny Urban Council on the motion of Mr D J McAuley passed a vote of sympathy to the families.
“At a resumed inquest, following evidence by Dr F Gallagher, a verdict of death by asphyxia caused by accidental drowning was returned,” the article stated.

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