When Jane Nicholson of Crannagael House was handed a letter by the postman on one of his usual rounds two weeks ago, she could hardly believe her eyes.
The unassuming little white letter had no postage stamp on it, but carried the date ‘9 AUG 1957’. It was addressed to ‘Mrs Nicholson, Crannagael, Annaghmore, Portadown’.
It was soon discovered that ‘Mrs Nicholson’ did not refer to Jane, but to her husband John’s grandmother, Susan.
Jane deciphered the address of origin as Quintinmanus, Newmills, outside Dungannon in County Tyrone.
Despite being only twelve miles up the road by car, the letter had taken a massive 66 years to finally arrive at its destination at Crannagael!
Crannagael House is a picturesque Georgian property owned and occupied by Jane and John Nicholson, nestled deep in the Armagh countryside, just outside Annaghmore, with Nicholson’s having lived at Crannagael House since 1760.
Keen to know more, Jane shared the remarkable story on the Crannagael House Facebook page, which she operates.
She had discovered that the letter, which spanned four pages, was from a Sarah Irwin who was responding to Susan Nicholson, thanking her for her condolences which had previously been expressed on the death of Sarah’s husband Chris.
The families had both made acquaintance whilst living in Vancouver, Canada, but had both since returned to live in Northern Ireland.
The story was discovered by family-friend Roy Allen – who helps to run the ‘County Tyrone in Photos’ Facebook group. Through the power of social media, Roy managed to trace the grandchildren of the woman – Sarah Irwin – who wrote the letter!
It was decided that both families would meet for the letter to be handed back to the Irwin grandchildren.
Sure enough, at 2pm on Friday, May 5, both parties came together, having never met before, to exchange age-old memories, family photos, and of course, the famous letter!
Present at the gathering, which took place, fittingly, in Crannagael House over a cup of tea, was Roy Allen, Jane and John Nicholson, and Sarah Irwin’s grandchildren, Carol Moore, Linda Black and Linda’s brother Chris. Armagh I‘s Scott Mann – myself – had the pleasure of being invited along.
Speaking to Armagh I on the day, Jane joked: “I was jolly excited to get a letter that was handwritten to Mrs Nicholson. It made me feel terribly grand!
“It was almost a bit disappointing when I realised it wasn’t for me, but the unfolding story has been far more interesting.
She added: “It’s been absolutely fascinating meeting up with them. I love family histories and they’ve come armed with all these photographs and to actually put faces to the names that are mentioned in the letter, it’s been absolutely surreal.
“It’s just such a piece of social history. If it hadn’t have gotten lost all those years, it probably would have been destroyed and nobody would have known anything about it. All the threads and everything may have just been lost, but it’s just all come together.”
The letter was written from Carol Moore’s parents’ house, where Carol grew up.
Carol explained: “I thought initially that Jane had found the letter in the house…. then I rang Jane and she informed me that the letter was posted! I’m just astounded that this has turned up. It’ just so bizarre… I recognised my granny’s writing because she used to write letters to friends and families in Canada.
“Linda and Chris have photographs that I’ve never seen before so it’s been a joy to exchange the photographs and talk about our grandparents!”