Saturday 22 September 2018

Contagion that left three boys without a mother

Fred Heatley (75) at the grave of his grandmother Catherine Moran Heatley in Glasnevin Cemetery. Photo: Mark Condren
Fred Heatley (75) at the grave of his grandmother Catherine Moran Heatley in Glasnevin Cemetery. Photo: Mark Condren
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Tragedy came on the double for three young boys who lost their beautiful mother in the Spanish Flu epidemic.

The Heatley brothers - Charlie (8), Fred (6) and Christy (5) - had already suffered the loss of their father Charles on the Somme in 1916.

Two years later their mother Catherine died of flu at her mother's house in The Liberties in Dublin. Her death was one of hundreds of flu deaths that November week.

"My father Fred didn't remember her because he was so young. It was like she had disappeared," said Fred Heatley (75), who lives in Coolock in Dublin. "All they had was a photo of a beautiful young woman. And a photo of their father," he said. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. When Catherine's sister Cissy died in 1949, the three brothers went to her funeral in Glasnevin. They never realised they were standing a few yards from their mother's grave.

Catherine Moran Heatley
Catherine Moran Heatley

Fred Heatley searched for his grandmother's grave in 1997 when he retired from Telecom Eireann. His search finally led him to "a patch of bare earth" in Glasnevin, where he placed a cross and brass plaque on the grave.

"She died five days before the end of the war. If Charles had survived the war and had arrived back in Dublin on the day the war finished, he would have walked up Wine Tavern Street from the ship not knowing that she had died," he said.

Charles, a Royal Dublin Fusilier, had survived the carnage of Gallipoli to be killed in France. His body was never found.

"Finding Catherine's grave in 1998 was wonderful. She had been lost to the family but I found her and brought her back into the family," he said.

Sunday Independent

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