Regarded by many as one of the finest novelists of his time, Belfast-born Brian Moore left Ireland a young man, and spent more than fifty years in Canada and the US. However, as Martin McGinley found out (belatedly), he had strong links with Donegal.
The great Brian Moore and the Donegal connection
So I mention to Muriel that I’m doing an article about Brian Moore, the writer, and she says, “His mother was from Donegal, wasn’t she?” It seems that the world has been aware for some time that the man regarded as one of the great Irish novelists had Donegal connections and, even better, Creeslough connections. If only I’d known that when I saw him read in a lecture theatre in Queen’s University in Belfast, more than ten years ago. I could have asked him something original, like about the influence of Creeslough on his work. Instead, I asked him if he’d thought about coming back to live in Belfast. I mean, the man lived in Malibu at the time.
He died there in January, 1999, which was a shame for people like myself who waited for his new novel every two years or so. It was hard to believe there would never be another Brian Moore book. But he had a long publishing career. His first novel, ‘The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne’, from 1955, is probably still the one he’s best known for. Four others were also made into films – ‘The Luck of Ginger Coffey’, ‘Catholics’, ‘Cold Heaven’ and ‘Black Robe’. He won many literary prizes, and was shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize. He also worked with Alfred Hitchcock, writing the screenplay for ‘Torn Curtain’, starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. It’s not really regarded as a classic, but Brian liked to take the credit for a particularly drawn-out – and famous - murder scene. He told Hitchcock he had learned from his father, a doctor, that “people didn’t always die as quickly as they did in movies.” Hitchcock took him at his word.
The story of Brian Moore’s Donegal connection begins back in another age, 1889, when his mother Eileen McFadden was born outside Creeslough, apparently in the townland of Cashel. Her parents were Pat and Grace (nee McGee). She was among the youngest of a large family, and grew up in the family home in Duntally, a little way along the Creeslough to Carrigart road. The McFaddens were quite a notable family. Eileen’s grandfather Edward had a corn mill at Duntally. His brother was Fr Hugh McFadden PP Cloughaneely, who died in 1868. He was the priest who accompanied some of those evicted in Derryveagh to Dublin on the first leg of their journey to Australia in January 1862. He’s said to have given a moving address at a dinner arranged for them in a Dublin hotel. Eileen’s father Pat had two brothers who also became parish priests in the Raphoe diocese – Dean Hugh McFadden, PP Donegal and Vicar General, who died in 1908, and Archdeacon James, PP Cloughaneely, who was known as ‘James of Glenea’. Eileen Moore attended Loreto Convent in Letterkenny. She would have been fifteen when her father Pat died in 1905. As was fairly common in those days, she spent some time living with a relative, in her case Dean Hugh McFadden. It seems that he left her some money when he died and she used this to fund her nurse’s training in Belfast. Fr John Silke, the well-known historian and diocesan archivist, recalls his mother Susan (nee McGinley from Feymore in Creeslough) telling of three girls from the parish who went to Belfast and all “married well”. One of them was Eileen McFadden. In 1915, when she was 25, she married a doctor more than twenty years her senior, James B. Moore, a Ballymena man who worked in the Mater Hospital. In the next 12 years she had nine children, with Brian coming in number four on 25th August, 1921. The family lived in no 11 Clifton Street in North Belfast until they were bombed out of the house by the Germans in the Second World War. The house was eventually demolished in 1995, in spite of a campaign to save it...
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