Veronica O’Hare has kept a letter she received from Derry girl Josephine Daly for over 45 years. The paper has faded but the unmistakable sentiment is still there. Both girls were students at the Holy Angels School, Chapelizod, Glenmaroon in Dublin.
The school was for girls with special educational needs and was run by nuns.
Veronica O’Hare is now 57 and lives in Moneymore in Newry. Her daughter Bernadette has contacted the Journal in the hope that someone in the city will be able to reunite her mother with her school friend Josephine, both of whom have long since lost contact.
“Mummy was very badly treated by the nuns at the school and she and Josephine were there to help and support one another,” Bernadette explained.
The Newry woman explainsedhow constant beatings as a child have left her mother in chronic pain.
“In those days mummy was called a slow learner, and her own mother was faced with the option, when mummy was eleven, of either sending her to a special school in Belfast or Dublin. Back then, the authorities just turned up and told my granny that her daughter would have to be taken away to a special school. She had no real choice in the matter. My granny chose Dublin at that stage because she felt it would be safer during the Troubles.
“While at school in Dublin, mummy was often beaten by the nuns and she had an awful time there. She’s still on crutches and uses a wheelchair sometimes as a result,” said Bernadette.
The Newry woman explained how her mother’s best friend at the Dublin school - a Derry girl called Josephine Daly - had been a source of comfort to her during those tough days.
“They were really, really close and they really helped one another and mummy always speaks about Josephine,” said Bernadette.
While Josephine had written to Veronica for a short while after the pair finished at the school, Veronica was never able to reply to the letters, as her daughter Bernadette explained.
“Mummy couldn’t write, and while she got these letters, she couldn’t ever write back to Josephine, so at the time, Josephine probably thought that she just wasn’t interested in keeping in touch, when in fact she was. Mummy still has special educational needs and that’s why I decided to do what I could for her and hopefully try and get in touch with her long lost friend.”
In one of the last letters Veronica received from her friend Josephine, Josephine thanks her for consoling her during their time as schoolmates.
The letter simply says “I wanted to thank you for coming to keep me company when I was crying last night.”
Showing the Journal a copy of the letter, Bernadette said: “You can tell from it just how close they were and the fact that as children they would really have relied on one another in a place where they had nobody else.”
Veronica can be contacted via the Derry Journal. Telephone 02871 272274.