A SPECIAL service to celebrate the life of an 19th century Strabane poet will take place at the end of this month.
The event is being organised by members of the McCrossan family to recognise the work of John McCrossan, otherwise known as The Evish Bard.
John’s great-great-grandson Patrick McCrossan lives in New York city but is one of those heavily involved in the celebrations.
He explained, “On September 28 our extended McCrossan relatives and descendants of Poet John will gather in Strabane to unveil the new headstone that was crowdfunded from around the world.
“Poet John died in 1895 and to date did not have a headstone leaving his grave unidentifiable despite him being recognised locally and with a prized collection of published poems still in circulation.
“We decided to try crowdfunding for the headstone and the reaction was incredible,” Patrick explained. “We raised the money in a day and have been working with Devine Memorials to make it happen. People have been talking about getting a headstone for nearly 125 years and now it is going to become a reality.
“Descendants of Poet John will gather in Strabane, some for the first time, for the unveiling of the headstone and to celebrate his legacy. They will be travelling from Australia, England, Dublin, Scotland and US to participate in this momentous occasion.”
The event is the result of years of research by Patrick and his cousin Rebecca (Reba) McDaid Longhorn.
Patrick explained, “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. She wrote the most extensive biography of Poet John to date which was printed in the Strabane Concordia in 1997. Copies of that story were given to me in 2005 upon 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.”
Come September 28 and the McCrossan clan will gather in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at 3.30pm for a special Mass by Fr Declan Boland in honour of Poet John McCrossan. They will then move to Stabane graveyard for the unveiling of the new headstone. Everyone is welcome to attend the Mass and unveiling.
Finally members of the family will gather for a meal and a catch up in the Fir Trees.
Concluding Patrick added, “It is incredible that Poet John wrote a poem entitled ‘The Chapel Bell’ about the opening of the ‘new’ church in Strabane – which is indeed the Immaculate Conception Church. This poem will be read inside the church followed by the unveiling of the headstone at the Strabane Cemetery. It will be an very exciting day for all the family.”