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Marie McAdam
The Daughter and her Mission

In the background to the story of the "Vindicator" so far are the other daughters of Pa McAdam, Marie, the eldest, her sister Lizzie, and their two stepsisters, Norah and Kathleen. It is natural to suspect that there was a certain amount of, shall we say, restraint between his two families. The advent of a new stepmother created strains. Pa's ability to provide the means for a university education for Eily, Kathleen and Norah, something he had been unable to do for his first family, was bound to rankle. On the surface all was smooth, and his eldest daughter Marie accepted the appointment of the young Eily as editor stoically.

She had helped in the rearing of her siblings, and remained steadfast in her loyalty to Pa. She helped in the management of both the "Vin" and "Derry Weekly News", and spent her physical and mental energies in supporting them.

By 1923, Partition was cutting deeply into the economic prospects of the Derry paper, and Pa himself was finding it more and more difficult to run both papers on his own. He depended greatly on Marie, and Marie did not fail him. At age forty-four, following Pa's death in 1925, she found herself in control of both enterprises, and felt duty bound to continue to pursue his dream of making economic successes of both.

By the time I first became aware of my aunt Marie, she had acquired a formidable reputation of her own. As a small boy I remember being taken to visit her in the offices of the "Derry Weekly News", and being awed by her presence. She was a lady who brooked no nonsense from small boys. In fact she terrified them, but it was terror in a delicious sense. One knew she was an aunt and that nothing really bad was going to happen.

My brother Barry often told how, when he travelled to Derry once a week for music lessons, they ended with an obligatory call on Aunt Marie. He was about twelve at the time, and he dreaded those visits. Marie was a stickler for good manners, and each time she entertained him to tea and chocolate meringues, fresh creamy meringues, not the artificially whipped cream kind that are mass produced nowadays. Picture it, a schoolboy balancing a cup of tea on one knee, and a meringue on a plate on the other. The meringue always squished out the cream when he attempted to eat it, the tea splashed on the carpet, and the chocolate stuck to his lips and cheeks. This was followed by a lecture on how these things should be done, week after week, until the music lessons ceased.

She was a great supporter of Derry City in those days when Derry had a first-class team, and after a Saturday match would describe vividly the highlights of the game, and not only describe them but illustrate them, kicking a ball around her office to do so. And when one of the City stars had blundered, she acted out her rage.

One name stands out in memory, Kelly, who once lost control of the football at a crucial stage in a game. I saw her kick her ball in the office to show how he should have played it, all the time articulating her anger at the unfortunate Kelly's stupidity. I doubt that he got a good write-up in next week's paper.

The grind of running both papers wore Marie down. She had vision, but lacked support. It was she who became the first female Intertype operator on a newspaper in Donegal, and when in Ballyshannon during the week, ruled her brother John and the machine room staff with a firm hand. "Miss McAdam wants this done", "Miss McAdam wants that done". She had her own way of giving orders, and once, as a small boy, I mimicked her voice and how she delivered her orders. Unknown to me she was in earshot. She pretended to be very angry and cross, but couldn't help laughing in the middle of it.

Editorially Marie had the same political misfortune as her younger sister. She made a serious blunder in supporting General O'Duffy and his blueshirt movement at a time when it was not very popular to do so. O'Duffy, it may be recalled, recruited an Irish Brigade to serve in the Spanish Civil War, a prelude to the Second World War, in which the new planes and weapons of Germany and Italy were tested under battle conditions. The Spanish conflict drew volunteers from many countries besides Ireland. The MacPaps of Canada were one such contingent. Hemingway came into his own with "For Whom the Bell Tolls", and in Donegal and Derry the sounding of the bell for the "Vin" and "News" seemed not far off.

This was the political atmosphere of the times, and nationally prospects did not improve for her papers when de Valera's party was finally elected to power in 1932. Old scores had to be settled, and those papers which had taken a step back from supporting his party after Ireland's own civil war found government revenues from advertising and commercial job printing soon falling. It was time for retrenchment.

The first thing to go was the rented offices in Derry City, although for many decades afterwards there remained a huge painted sign DERRY WEEKLY NEWS high on a building in Carlisle Road.

The paper continued to be printed in Ballyshannon, and Marie still made weekly trips to Derry, but circulation steadily sagged, and eventually only a shell remained, printed weekly in order to retain the copyright.

Marie was tireless and dedicated to the public she served, in Donegal and in Derry. Among her achievements was the founding of the first branch of the Gaelic League in Ballyshannon, and she was a member of the Ballyshannon Choral Society and the Derry Philharmonic.

As the years passed, she earned the respect of journalistic colleagues to whom she was affectionately known, particularly in Derry, as "the frail little lady" with indomitable courage. Worn down by constant travelling, reporting, editing and managerial responsibilities, she went to her eternal reward on May 3, 1938.

During her stewardship she had the constant companionship of her brother John, upon whom she depended for the practical printing of the newspapers, and to him she entrusted their future welfare.

It is a matter of some curiosity why Pa McAdam did not nominate either of his surviving sons, John and James, to succeed him. Again the issue of step relations may provide a clue. Family lore has it that neither benefitted much from the local school taught by Master Nyhan who, in his later years, had periodic acquaintance with sobriety. James, reputedly a boy of spirit, once flung his writing slate at the master. It narrowly missed his head and embedded itself in the blackboard behind him.

Both served in the Great War, from which James returned with a severe hip wound, and John came back without a hair on his head, and outlandish tales of what he had experienced in the Near East. [He has figured in this Home Page previously]. John chose to stay at home, and James went away to make a living on his own as a printer with the "Dundalk Examiner". A son of James, John McAdam, who worked for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in Dublin, very kindly looked after my uncle John following the final collapse of the "Vindicator" in the late 1950s.

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