Find­ing Lucy


I never cease to be amazed at the abil­ity of hu­man be­ings to tri­umph in the face of ad­ver­sity. Ori­son Swett Mar­den ex­pressed it this way: “Suc­cess is not mea­sured by what you ac­com­plish, but by the op­po­si­tion you have en­coun­tered, and the courage with which you have main­tained the strug­gle against over­whelm­ing odds.”

Nowhere is this truer than in the case of a 10-year-old girl from New Mel­bourne who, in 1936, was lost in dense woods for 10 days. She was found af­ter sur­viv­ing in the snow and wind, with­out food or wa­ter, ex­cept for snow.

Her in­domitable will helped her to come through the or­deal. On March 26, a cold and foggy Thurs­day, Lucy Har­ris and her eightyear-old sis­ter, Margie, de­cided to go trout­ing on their way home from school. En route to the brook, they came to a small runoff, which Lucy had no trou­ble cross­ing. Margie couldn’t make it, so Lucy en­cour­aged her to go on home.

When the sup­per ta­ble was set, the fam­ily re­al­ized Lucy was miss­ing. They fig­ured — wrongly, as it turned out — she had gone to visit her aunt. Even­tu­ally, a heartrend­ing mes­sage was cir­cu­lated in the com­mu­nity: Lucy Har­ris is miss­ing.

In 1999, Lucy told a writer, Jen­nifer Reaney, “ When it got dark, I started to run.” Lucy re­called los­ing her boots and mitts. In­stead of head­ing out of the woods, she was ac­tu­ally go­ing deeper into the woods. Then the tem­per­a­ture dropped. The ef­forts of search teams were ham­pered by the pea-soup fog.

The next morn­ing, the com­mu­nity turned out in large num­bers to search for Lucy. To com­pound mat­ters, weather con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rated, with rain and snow ac­com­pa­nied by strong winds. By night­fall, a sense of dread per­vaded New Mel­bourne.

The search by peo­ple from near and far con­tin­ued day af­ter day af­ter day. Some searchers walked the eight kilo­me­tres to and back from the brook daily. Un­der­stand­ably, hope be­gan to wane by the eighth and ninth days.

The lo­cal Pen­te­costal pas­tor, E. Ray­mond Pel­ley (1907-76), wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that he “went to Lucy’s home and dis­cussed hav­ing a me­mo­rial ser­vice for her on the fol­low­ing Sun­day night. How­ever, we dis­missed that idea and, in­stead, de­cided to write a note to the leader of each church in the area, re­quest­ing spe­cial prayer on Sun­day and an in­tense search on Mon­day with the hope of lo­cat­ing Lucy’s body.”

Some res­i­dents of Ir­ish de­scent sus­pected the fairies had taken the young girl. To the con­trary, young Lucy was alive, but im­mo­bile, un­able to move be­yond where she had sat down the first night. Her frost­bit­ten legs pre­vented her from walk­ing. She wasn’t scared, she later ad­mit­ted, be­cause the singing birds kept her com­pany.

With the pass­ing of March and the start of a new month, the searchers won­dered how Lucy could pos­si­bly still be alive. Still, they faith­fully combed the woods. There even­tu­ally came a red-letter day when, 122 me­tres from the pond, two of the men heard a faint voice, “Hello. I’m the lit­tle girl who’s lost in the woods.”

Lucy had sur­vived a to­tal of 10 days and 11 nights.

The men, some of whom were from Lower Is­land Cove, cre­ated a stretcher from their sheep­skin coats and car­ried Lucy out of the woods. Church bells tolled for al­most three hours, not with the dirge of death, but with the sound of sal­va­tion: The lost has been found. The joy­ful news quickly spread through New Mel­bourne and nearby com­mu­ni­ties.

On her way home, Lucy talked, but not about her­self; in­stead, she asked about her ail­ing grand­mother.

Dr. Short, who ar­rived from Heart’s Con­tent, or­dered that she be given pineap­ple juice. She was then trans­ferred to the Old Per­li­can hos­pi­tal. She was fed some broth.

Pas­tor Pel­ley wrote: “it was a mir­a­cle that a lit­tle girl had spent 11 nights and 10 days lost in the woods and was now at home alive and con­scious.”

Lucy was trans­ferred to the Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in St. John’s, where she re­mained for over a year and re­ceived med­i­cal treat­ment. The story of her in­cred­i­ble story spread around the globe. She re­ceived let­ters and dolls from Eng­land and Aus­tralia. Peo­ple in the cap­i­tal city cooked meals and brought them to her at the hos­pi­tal. In time, her legs had to be am­pu­tated be­low the knee due to frost­bite.

In 1999, Lucy was re­united with the nurse, Mrs. Mac­Na­mara, who had cared for her 63 years be­fore.

Lucy’s daugh­ter, Sharon Pynn, told the writer, Jen­nifer Reaney, “I think the best mes­sage that comes out of Mom’s story is not to give up hope.”

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