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Headstone of Strabane’s famous ‘Evish Bard’ to be unveiled next weekend

18 September 2019

The family of Strabane poet John McCrossan will gather in the city cemetery next Saturday, September 28th to unveil his headstone, almost 125 years after his death.

John, who was also known as the ‘Evish Bard’, was a working class farmer from Strabane who, in the early 19th century, spent much of his time reciting and writing poems which were often published, mostly by the Farmer’s Almanac. He won awards for his work, while sharing some of his writings with his local church, community, and family overseas.

John passed away in 1895 and was buried with his wife Mary-Ann McGurk and their two children, John Junior and Rebecca.

The grave has been without a headstone since, but that is all set to change next Saturday after Poet John’s family came together to crowdsource the funds needed to provide him with a beautiful headstone, which has been produced by Devine Memorials.

The ‘Evish Bard’s’ poems were re-discovered by his great grand-daughter Rebecca McDaid Longhorn in the 1990’s, and along with his great-great grandson Patrick McCrossan, who currently lives in New York, they were able to raise the money needed after just one day.

Now, about 100 family members from Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Europe will meet in Strabane next Saturday to celebrate the life of their famous relative and ensure that his legacy will continue in his hometown, and all around the world.

The event has already received widespread media attention in the build-up to the unveiling, reaching around 1,000,000 people to date - with the Strabane Chronicle, Belfast Telegraph and Irish Echo publishing articles, while Q Radio and the BBC have also shown a huge interest.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle will be in attendance next Saturday when Poet John’s headstone is unveiled, and she said it will be a momentous occasion not only for the family, but for the town as a whole.

“John played such a huge role in the history of Strabane, with his poems so beautifully and poignantly reflecting on what was a tough time in our history in the 1800’s, just after the potato famine.

“His work is timeless, and as impressive now as it was back then, and it’s only right that he and his family are honoured in the right way with this new headstone.

“The fact that the money was raised so quickly shows just how highly thought of the work of the ‘Evish Bard’ is, and I’m honoured to be attending next Saturday’s ceremony.”

There will be a mass at 3.30pm on Saturday, September 28th in the Strabane Immaculate Conception Church, during which John’s ‘The Chapel Bell’ poem about the opening of the church will be read out. The headstone will then be unveiled in Strabane City Cemetery at 4.30pm.