Two families searched for the same man at same time
‘He was a good man and a good husband to me. People have said, aren’t you annoyed, but I knew I had a good man and father and that he did what he did to protect me,’ says Julie Dello about discovering that the man she had married had given her a false name and history.
Thanks to the dogged detective work of local amateur genealogist Jim Kerley, Julie has been able to trace her husband’s history and family to Dundalk, where last week she met up with his grand niece Simone and other relatives, as well as those who had helped in the search.
Lynn Dello, as Julie had known him, or Leo McEvoy as he was born, died suddenly in 1981 and she spent many years searching for his Irish family.
It was in December last year that she got the phone call from Jim Kerley telling her that he had found her husband’s family in Dundalk.
‘He was a good husband to me, he gave up his family for me,’ she says of the man she had met shortly after he had created a new identity so he could join the British Army. ‘He served in the army with an unblemished record.’
Never once did he let it slip that he hadn’t been raised with in a foster family in Dundalk but grown up and gone to school in Durham, in the north of England with his parents, Michael McEvoy from Dundalk and mother Alice from Co Tyrone, his brother Jimmy and sister Rose.
She accepts that once he had told her his invented history, there was no way he could go back, as she would probably have walked away.
One of the last photographs his family had of him was when he was best man for his brother Jimmy when he married Bridget Maguire.
Jimmy and Bridget came to live in Dundalk in 1980 and their grand daughter Simone Foster says that he spent 31 years looking for a dead man after all communication ceased.
‘He thought his brother had died and I even went to England searching for death certificates but couldn’t find any.’
Simone, who came to live with her grandparents, says Jimmy died wondering what had happened to his younger brother.
‘I’m probably a wee bit miffed that Leo never sent a postcard to say that he was alright and that they weren’t to worry about him.’
‘His mother Alice was still alive when he disappeared so she also died without knowing where he was, if he was alive or dead.’
At the same time as Julie was searching for relatives of her dead husband, Simone was looking for information about her grandfather’s brother.
However, they were searching for men with different names and even different dates of birth, as Lynn Dello had said he was two years younger when he joined the army.
When Simone got a phone call from Jim Kerley, who had traced Lynn Dello to the McEvoy family in Dundalk, she was happy to help with his request for information.
‘As soon as she showed me a photograph of her grand uncle Leo I knew that was our man,’ says Jim.
He put Julie and Simone in contact each other and they have spent much time filling in the gaps in the family history.
Simone’s big regret is that the breakthrough came too late for her grandfather to find out what had happened to his brother, as he had passed away in November 2015, a year before the mystery was solved.
During her visit here, Julie was delighted to finally meet with her husband’s relatives and to visit the places he would have known. ‘I went to Dowdallshill, saw the Lisdoo Arms, the Adelphi, and the Dowdaller’s where he played snooker. I have walked a mile in his shoes.’
‘It was very, very important for me to do that, and I have found my son’s cousins.’
Jimmy, Mum and Leo (Lynn).
Jimmy’s wedding, with Leo (Lynn) on the left.