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
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
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
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
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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