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Sunday 8 December 2019

Widow of drowned fisherman gives birth to their baby girl

* Fisherman Daryl Burke drowned with two other men
* Their boat capsized in Louth Ree, Athlone, Co Westmeath in April
* Daryl Burke's widow Louise says she believes her husband is watching over their baby
* She clutched a photo of her late husband as she gave brith to their daughter
* She named their baby daughter Ella

Daryl Burke
Daryl Burke
Louise Burke - wife of drowned fisherman Daryl Burke - with their baby daughter Ella

Claire Williamson

She's the baby girl her tragic father had always wanted.

Daryl Burke couldn't wait to be a dad again. On Christmas Eve in Craigavon Hospital, when the father-of-four learned his wife Louise was pregnant with their first daughter, he was ecstatic – so much so that he rushed out and bought her a little pink baby-grow.

As he bought the first tiny pink outfit for his daughter he could never have imagined he wouldn't be there to see her wear it.

The couple had decided they wouldn't tell anyone they were expecting a girl.

But such was the excitement of the father-to-be he had told everyone less than an hour after they arrived home.

His wife Louise had said to him: "It's meant to be a secret," but he replied: "I can't, I have to tell everybody."

From that moment on, Daryl rarely went out without picking up something pink for his baby girl.

Every time he went shopping there was something else pink in his trolley.

But on May 3, as Louise Burke went in to labour in Craigavon Hospital, instead of clutching the hand of her much-loved husband, she was holding a photograph of him.

Rather than resting during the last weeks of her pregnancy, Louise spent her days keeping an anxious vigil as a two-week search was carried out for her husband, who was missing after his boat capsized as he was fishing with two other men in treacherous conditions on Lough Ree near Athlone, Co Westmeath.

The arduous search came to an end when his body was found near the shoreline.

Those weeks were tough on the expectant mother and at one point she thought she would have her baby at the scene of the search.

In the delivery room, Louise was joined by her sister-in-law. The new mother was surrounded by support, but among all the faces she saw, none of them was the one person she wished she could see again.

Her husband had been there for the births of their three sons, but she believes he was there in spirit for Ella.

"He probably saw her before I did," Louise said. "From the moment she was born, her father was in her life."

The photo Louise had clutched to her chest during labour was placed in Ella's cot and she was dressed in the first pink baby-grow her father had bought for her.

Louise believes baby Ella is the image of her dad. "She does a frown that he would do; she is very like him," says her mother. "She's got his swarthy skin as well."

Yesterday, the stoical mother-of-four sat in a chair cradling her beautiful baby girl, gazing at her with the look of love that comes only from a mother, her mind full of thoughts.

The birth of a baby is usually a happy time but for the Burke family it is tinged with sadness.

The little girl was wrapped in a blanket with the Portadown Pikers logo emblazoned on it – a gift from the angling club which her dad had such a passion for.

The couple had picked her name together, but Louise added 'Daryl' as a middle name.

For Louise, the couple live on together through their little girl. Baby Ella barely stirred as she slept , while her tearful mum said she believes her husband is watching over the tot.

"She has her daddy with her all the time," she said.

All new parents are awake in the small hours of the night, tending to their bundle of joy, and as Louise tends to baby Ella at 2am she said this is when she feels her husband's presence most.

"When you are sitting in the bedroom on your own and it's quiet and there is no one awake only me and her, I definitely do feel it then," Louise said.

She added: "I talk to him all day."

Daryl was a family man and his children were everything to him. Louise said: "The kids didn't look at me once tea-time came and Daddy came home. Daddy did bath time, bed time, daddy did everything.

"When I found out we were having a girl I thought, 'yes, somebody in my team.' But she would have been a Daddy's girl as well."

And as their three young sons welcome their new baby sister with open arms, they too are still struggling to come to terms with what has happened.

Louise said: "The kids have their moments. My four-year-old finds it quite tough. He says, 'My daddy has been in heaven long enough, it's time he was back down'.

"He can't understand his daddy can't just come back. To him heaven is a place you go and come back again."

While Daryl may not have got the chance to meet the baby girl he longed for, Louise believes he watches over her and sees her every day.

"I look at her and I just wonder, 'what does Daryl think?' "There will always be photos of Daryl and stories about their daddy to tell them. We will never let them forget him.

He played such a big part in their lives that it's impossible to forget him. Every day she'll be told something about him."

While baby Ella will never have the chance to meet the doting dad who couldn't wait to meet her, one thing's for sure – she will grow up knowing all about him.

Belfast Telegraph

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