Sunday 17 December 2017

Grieving mum overwhelmed by stranger's touching letter after losing her son in tragic accident in Australia

Alan Durkan tragically died in a car accident in Australia in 2012
Alan Durkan tragically died in a car accident in Australia in 2012
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A mum who lost her son in a tragic accident in Australia has said a kind letter sent to her by a stranger “melted” her heart and encouraged her to make the journey to retrace his steps on the other side of the world.

Janet Durkan’s son Alan (22) lost his life after his car veered off the road and hit a tree near the town of Penola in South Australia in 2012.

Speaking on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One, the mum from Louisburgh in Mayo, opened up about a letter she received after Alan’s death from a kind stranger who had befriended her son during his time in Penola.

In the touching letter, Croppa Creek shop-owner Caroline told Janet that she should be proud of her son, who made so many friends and connections during his time working on farms in the region.

Caroline wrote: “We had many Irish but amongst them Alan was special. He was kind, he was thoughtful and he was always bright and chirpy.

“You should be very proud of your boy.”

In the note Caroline invited Janet and her family to her home in New South Wales, should they ever wish to retrace their son’s steps and revisit the places where he had thrived.

“Please know that we looked out for Alan and he made some very close friends in this district. This might not be in your mind now but if you ever choose to retrace Alan’s steps and visit the places abroad that he experienced you are always welcome in our home. We welcome you.”

On Alan’s first anniversary, Janet and her husband Andy took up Caroline’s invitation and travelled to Australia which she said was something the family felt they had to do. Janet said they were overwhelmed by the kindness of Caroline and her husband, who drove more than six hours to pick them up in Brisbane.

“We had to go out to the area where the crash happened. We had to go and that was in our minds. But we wouldn’t have gone to Croppa Creek. We went to Melbourne and then we travelled to Brisbane, the nearest city to there.

“Those people drove for six hours to collect us in Brisbane and drove us to their home and we stayed two nights with them. They drove us back again to Brisbane. They were remarkable people.

“It was so very, very difficult. We went back for Alan’s first anniversary. We went for the month of February 2013 and it was very difficult but it had to be done and I’m glad we did it. It just shows the power of communication that one letter from that lovely lady who we didn’t know,” said Janet.

The mum said Janet’s letter was a prime example of the power of communication, and it provided a light during such a dark time in her life.

“It’s so lovely. She melted my heart completely when she said you should be very proud of your boy. I loved that line. She got Alan. That was exactly him,” said Janet.

Read Caroline’s letter below

“Dear Mrs Durkan and Family,

"It is with deep, deep sympathy that I write to you. My name is Caroline and my husband and I run the General Store in Croppa Creek. We are very sorry about the loss of your son Alan. He was a treasure. We came to know Alan when he came to work in our community last year. He came at a time when we had a large number of travellers and backpackers.

“We had many Irish but amongst them Alan was special. He was kind, he was thoughtful and he was always bright and chirpy. He used to come into our store and say ‘You alright Caroline? You been busy today?’ Every time he was the same. He seemed to love his visits to our little store and we’d make him a sandwich or burger for his lunch box, full of eagerness for the day’s work ahead.

“If rain was coming and forecast there was a sense of disappointment. ‘No work if it’s raining’ he’d say. There was no doubt he wanted to work. He also reflected about the downturn in Ireland when he first came to Croppa Creek. We’d heard it many times from other travellers but Alan brought a personal view. It was heartfelt. It was clear that his trip to Australia was a time to blossom and shine as a young man. He was infectious in his humour. My family and I became very attached to these youngsters. I took on a role as pseudo-mum keeping them on the semi-straight and narrow but encouraging them to enjoy their time too. Please know that we looked out for Alan and he made some very close friends in this district. This might not be in your mind now but if you ever choose to retrace Alan’s steps and visit the places abroad that he experienced you are always welcome in our home. We welcome you. You should be very proud of your boy.

Love, Caroline."

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