The Argus - - NEWS -

They say fact is stranger than fic­tion and in the case of mys­tery man Lynn Dello, it’s cer­tainly true.

The story of the Ir­ish man with Dun­dalk roots who changed his iden­tity on join­ing the Bri­tish Army, fell in love and mar­ried an English woman, and her search to trace his roots af­ter his un­timely death has all the in­gre­di­ents of a block buster novel. Then there’s the sad tale of the Dun­dalk mother and brother who went to their graves not know­ing what had hap­pened to the young man who had sim­ply dis­ap­peared af­ter go­ing to Eng­land. Add to that the chance con­nec­tion be­tween the widow and a re­tired fire­man turned ge­neal­o­gist which led to years of search­ing be­fore the Lynn Dello’s true iden­tity was re­vealed.

Juile Hewitson was swept off her feet by the young man she met at a dance in Bournemouth.

‘It was Oc­to­ber 1960 and he had just fin­ished his ba­sic train­ing with the army. He was a really, really nice fel­low,’ she re­calls. ‘He was very gen­tle­manly and we hid it off straight away.’

‘He told me he was Lynn Dello and I re­mem­ber say­ing ‘what a lovely name.’

At the end of the night, she wrote her ad­dress on his hand with lip­stick as she hadn’t a pen, and on the Mon­day morn­ing, there was a let­ter in the post.

Ro­mance blos­somed and they got mar­ried in April 1961. ‘We trav­elled to army bases all over Eu­rope and Britain and had a lovely life to­gether.’

Their son Chris was born in Ger­many in 1977 and Julie was wid­owed when her hus­band died sud­denly in 1981.

‘Our lit­tle boy was just a few weeks over four years of age and I de­voted my life to bring­ing him up with the help of my Mum.’

She then got in­ter­ested in trac­ing her fam­ily routes, and while she could go back gen­er­a­tions on her own side, she re­alised that she knew very lit­tle about her hus­band’s fam­ily.

‘I started think­ing about Chris’ Ir­ish con­nec­tions and how it would be nice to find some cousins for him.’

She got out the box of let­ters which her hus­band had sent her and be­gan to read through them.

‘He had never talked much about his child­hood, other say­ing he was raised in Dun­dalk and fos­tered by a fam­ily called McCann and had three foster broth­ers. I had never pushed him about his fam­ily as I though he had been up­happy grow­ing up and didn’t want to talk about it.’

She found a let­ter from Lynn say­ing that his foster fa­ther had died in 1960 and be­gan search­ing for any Dello or McCann rel­a­tives.

‘I went to the Births and Deaths Reg­istry of­fice in Dublin and there were no match­ing records for Dello or McCann,’ she re­calls. ‘I wrote to twenty-two McCanns in Dun­dalk but no one had heard of him.’

She set up a web­site look­ing for in­for­ma­tion about her late hus­band, got Si­mone Foster (nee McEvoy), Julie Dello and Jim Ker­ley. Below a photo of the de­ceased Lynn Dello.

in touch with lo­cal news­pa­pers and went on the Gerry Kelly show on LMFM Ra­dio.

Af­ter the in­ter­view Gerry men­tioned that he knew some­one who might be able to help her, as he had re­cently spo­ken to Dun­dalk man Jim Ker­ley who had re­tired af­ter 35 years as a fire fighter and was now pur­su­ing ge­neal­ogy as a hobby.

Jim be­gan the search with de­ter­mi­na­tion of a ter­rier hunt­ing down a rab­bit, fol­low­ing ev­ery lead.

‘Larry O’Ha­gan put up posts on the Dun­dalk Northend and Friends Face­book page, so we got lots of peo­ple will­ing to help out,’ he says.

With the ded­i­ca­tion of an Agatha Christie de­tec­tive, Jim poured through old records, look­ing at birth and death cer­tifi­cates which might yield a clue.

He be­gan look­ing at McCann fam­i­lies or fam­i­lies who had fos­tered chil­dren.

‘Of­ten it was a very sen­si­tive busi­ness as we were ask­ing peo­ple if their grand­mother or grand­fa­ther had a child out­side of mar­riage,’ he says.

‘Peo­ple were very help­ful but a lot of the in­for­ma­tion led to false leads.’

One sug­ges­tion was that Lynn Dello could have been a singer or mu­si­cian but that too proved a dead end.

The set­ting up of DNA data­bases for those search­ing their fam­ily ances­try proved cru­cial in solv­ing the mys­tery

Julie and Chris were both tested and slowly Jim be­gan build­ing up com­mon links for Chris which could all be traced back to north Louth.

‘ The big break through came last Novem­ber when a chap in Aus­tralia got his DNA tested and proved the clos­est rel­a­tive,’ says Jim. ‘Peter Hendry was born in Scot­land but his moth-

er was Mary McCann who was born on the Ar­magh Road, and her mother was a Cather­ine McEvoy from Bar­ley­field.’

Jim then be­gan build­ing up a fam­ily tree and de­cided it was time to reach out to pos­i­tive rel­a­tives liv­ing in Dun­dalk.

‘ There were a num­ber I could have got in touch with but luck­ily enough, one of the first was Si­mone Foster, nee McEvoy. ‘As soon as I told her the story, she said knew who I was look­ing for, that she had been look­ing for her grand­uncle for years.’

How­ever, the man she was look­ing for wasn’t called Lynn Dello but Leo McEvoy.

Si­mone showed Jim a photo of her grand­uncle Leo as best man at her grand­fa­ther Jimmy’s wed­ding, and as soon as he saw it, he knew the search was over. ‘We had found our man.’

To­gether with Julie, they be­gan putting the pieces of Lynn Dello’s story to­gether.

Born in Stan­ley, Co Durham, to Ir­ish im­mi­grants Michael McEvoy from Dun­dalk and Alice McCol­gan, from Ty­rone, Leo McEvoy was the youngest of a fam­ily of two boys and a girl. Julie re­mem­bers, he spoke with a soft Ir­ish ac­cent which he had in­her­ited from his par­ents.

He did com­pul­sory na­tional ser­vice in the Bri­tish air force in the 1950s, and spent time in Dun­dalk in the late ‘fifties.

Af­ter an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to join the Bri­tish air force - he was turned down on med­i­cal grounds due to prob­lems with his knee, he then de­cided to join the Army. How­ever, as his pre­vi­ous ap­pli­ca­tion to the forces had been re­jected, he feared his med­i­cal records would be pulled up and he would be turned down, de­spite the fact that the re­quire­ments weren’t as strin­gent.

And that was when he in­vented Lynn Dello. In the ab­sence of a birth cer­tifi­cate, he made a sworn af­fi­davit say­ing he was born in 1935 on board a ship trav­el­ling from Spain to Cork, that his mother had died in child birth and his fa­ther was un­known.

Why he picked the name Lynn Dello re­mains a mys­tery but parts of the story he told Julie were in­spired by his time spent vis­it­ing rel­a­tives in Dun­dalk, where there are still cousins liv­ing to­day.

‘ This is ac­tu­ally quite com­mon as peo­ple who make up sto­ries of­ten base them on re­al­ity,’ ex­plains Jim. ‘He had cousins called McCann who had fos­tered chil­dren.’

He feels that once Leo had told Julie that he was Lynn Dello, there was no turn­ing back. ‘If he told her the next time he met her that he hadn’t been truth­ful, she would prob­a­bly have walked away.’

In track­ing down Leo’s fam­ily in Dun­dalk, Jim also dis­cov­ered that Leo’s grand­fa­ther, James McEvoy, is be­lieved to be the world’s first vic­tim of a car bomb as he was killed when Frank Aiken’s men ex­ploded a lorry at Fran­cis Street dur­ing the Civil War in Au­gust 1922.

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