Girl's family were regular visitors to Donegal village
THE missing English toddler who disappeared from a holiday apartment in the Algarve visited Donegal with her parents at Easter.
The east Donegal village of St Johnston which she visited with her parents Gerry and Kate and younger brother and sister has united in prayer for the safe return of three-year-old Madeleine McCann who police say was abducted last Thursday night.
The family and the missing child's great uncle Hughie and grandmother Ellen McCann spent more than a week in The Rosses area of Donegal, staying mostly in a Bed and Breakfast in the Dungloe area.
Ellen, nee Ferry, was born in the Crolly area of the county but left for Scotland in the 1960's after she married Johnny McCann from the Donegal village of St Johnston, where he used to run a pub with his brother Hughie.
According to the current owner of McCann's bar on the main street in the middle of the village of St Johnston, the family were regular visitors to the area although they no longer had relatives in Donegal.
But a larger group than usual had travelled to Donegal at Easter, Joe Peoples said.
"They came frequently to St Johnston and always stopped in the bar for a few drinks and a chat although at Easter they actually stayed in the west of the county.
"I believe Ellen came from the Crolly area of the county.
"But they called in here on their way to back to Belfast Airport and I met them all," said Mr Peoples.
The pub which had been run by the brothers had hardly changed at all in the last 25 years.
He vividly recalled the two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie and three-year-old Madeleine whom he described as "a wee dote".
"She was just running around all over the bar having a great time, up to all sorts.
"She was a wee dote, a lovely wee girl.
"I can't believe what has happened to her," he said.
He added that as soon as he heard the name of the father of the missing girl he feared the worst.
"It is an awful thing. They must be in a terrible state.
"All we can do is pray for them and pray that she will be found safe," he said.
Joe even had his photograph taken with the entire family before they left.
"I had intended asking them to send me a copy of the photograph but I didn't and look at what's happened now," he said.
Joe said Maddie's dad Gerry was proud of his Donegal roots.
"They keep very much in touch.
"They came to St Johnston almost every year - the years they missed were few and far between," he said.