80-year old London Irishman’s letter to find friends he left behind at 16 touches hearts in both countries
By Colin Gannon
A Clare man who has lived in London for the past 64 years since arriving as a 16-year old immigrant has said he “never dreamt” of seeing such a positive outpouring of support following his poignant appeal to be reacquainted with any surviving school friends.
Jim Logan, 80, originally from Lahinch, emigrated to London from Cregg, Co. Clare in 1954.
Last week, he wrote a short, heartfelt letter to local paper The Clare Champion in the hope of being put into contact with old friends, companions or classmates.
Jim and his family have thanked people for their responses and the many “kind offers” to bring him back to his native Clare, adding that he is “private person who doesn’t want the limelight”.
He had just been released from hospital when he suggested to Rosie McBride, his niece, who is also the Sheltered Housing Manager for Camden Council, that he place a notice in The Clare Champion to seek out old friends.
Although heartened by offers, Jim has said that he is happy where he is and proud of living in his own flat.
“I have a grand life, I was married to my wonderful wife for 52 years until she sadly passed away four years ago. I have a daughter, grandchildren and lots of nieces and nephews,” he said.
Delighted by the fact that some of his peers are still alive and wishing to speak with him, Jim has said he promises to write everyone who contacts him back.
In the touching letter, Jim said he went to national (primary) school in Lahinch and then, for a brief period, the Christian Brothers’ secondary school in Ennistymon. He left Clare for England aged just 16.
In the letter, he writes: “I am an 80-year-old man from Lahinch, lying on my bed here in London on a very hot day”.
“I am wondering how everyone is doing back in Lahinch and if there is anybody who remembers me?” he asks.
He is currently living in Camden, London as part of the local council’s Sheltered Housing scheme – where retirees over the age of 65 who are looking for suitable and secure accommodation are housed to allow for independent living.
Since originally being tweeted by the Irish World and published by the Irish website Broadsheet.ie, the letter fast gained traction online – a shared post of the letter by a Clare GAA supporters page on Facebook received almost 6,000 shares and reached 300,000 users online.
Local community pages on social media sites helped forward the letter exponentially.
Eventually at least two Facebook users posted comments that mentioned contemporaries of Jim’s who knew him and now wanted to arrange a meeting or conversation.
A former classmate of Jim’s, Sean Hegarty, said he remembers him well and intends to write him a letter. One Facebook comment, attributed to a Josie Norman Lyons, says: “I would love to see you (sic) will make arrangements to catch up with you”.
Jim brings the letter to a close with an emotional appeal: “It would be great to hear from anyone from that era. I wonder how many of us are left?”
Editor of The Clare Champion Peter O’Connell, whose paper first published the letter, told the Irish World that there has been a “phenomenal reaction” to Jim’s letter.
“The poignancy of his words has resonated across Clare and across the country. Jim is reflective of a generation of Irish people who have been largely forgotten,” O’Connell said.
“While Ireland has made significant progress on many societal levels, we must try to not forget Jim and his generation.”
Jim also received some offers. Lahinch hotelier Michael Vaughan sought out Jim in an attempt to re-connect him to his hometown. He tweeted: “We’ve been in touch with Jim and have invited him home all expenses paid to see his remaining relatives and catch up on life in Lahinch.”
In a statement issued on Mr Logan’s behalf, by his niece Rosie McBride, he thanked people for their “lovely responses”.
“I had just come out of a spell in the hospital and was feeling sorry for myself, thinking of the times when I was young, running around the beach after school. I was saying to Rosie there would be no friends of my generation left back in Clare now. She said I might be surprised and suggested the little notice in the paper. I never dreamt of anything like all responses,” he said.
“Thank you all very much for your kind offers but I’m a private person who doesn’t want the limelight. I just thought it would be nice to see if anyone from my youth was still about as I haven’t been back to Clare in about 10 years.
I have a grand life, I was married to my wonderful wife for 52 years until she sadly passed away four years ago. I have a daughter, grandchildren and lots of nieces and nephews.
“I would also like to reassure you all I live in my own flat not a hostel! To the friends who wrote to me I will respond back to you and we can take a walk down memory lane reminiscing on the good ole days. Delighted there are some of you left!”