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DD Motoring: Fond family memories shared of Catherine Gregory, who worked for Mark Twain

first_img“I compromised with this man at the end of an intolerable hour. I bought two double-barreled echoes in good condition, and he threw in another, which he said was not salable because it only spoke German,” he said. “She was a perfect polyglot once, but somehow her palate got down.”That is the finishing line on one of Mark Twain’s short stories. Just one of the memories shared this week following our piece on Catherine Gregory who worked for the famous writer Mark Twain in America. Advertisement The World famous author Mark Twain who employed Donegal’s Catherine Gregory to work with him as as he personal secretary.It was a man from South Africa who made contact with us following the piece in last week’s Donegal Daily about the famous writer as he recalled this short story which he read as a child growing up years ago in Cape town.The short story was entitled “The Canvasser” which is very funny but it has a great message within it’s words.In the story, a salesman was making a pitch to sell echoes that were unable to bounce off anything anymore. It is very similar to what happened our piece on Catherine Gregory last week.Catherine Gregory born in Ballybofey who went to America in 1901 to work for the famous author Mark TwainWhen Ronnie Reilly, Catherine Gregory’s grandson recalled the story to us, a story his family have known all their lives. Then when we ran the story at the weekend all these amazing echoes returned. Like the short story the echo would only work when it was bouncing off something or some one. Advertisement Life long fans of Mark Twain that never knew they were living beside a personal friend and employee of the great writer.People like the fashion designer Edel MacBride celebrated the news of this story on social media over the weekend and in return she promoted the love she had for the writings of Mark Twain even recalled memories of as herself listening, as a young student to reading extracts for ‘Huckleberry Finn’ at St. Columba’s College, and was carried away in the words of the book. In recalling those great memories she received a great response back from fellow fans and even family members of Catherine Gregory.Together they have pieced real life details on the wonderful life of Catherine Gregory and Mark Twain.As we speak, Edel and her friends are planning to create a project to study the life of Catherine Gregory as they celebrate her journey and other great Donegal people.I wonder what Catherine would have thought of the technology today for communication when so many memories could be shared and replied to instantly.Back in her day of communicating through pen and ink it would take at least 3 months for her to get a reply for a letter that she would write and send home to Donegal from America, so in away she might have to write with the mind that it would be 6 weeks before her letter would arrive at a destination and also that her reply would be six weeks old when she received it. This week we have included some of the many memories with Catherine’s extended family, from writing on her own book from 99 years ago in 1908 in New York to some of the family photos and memories of their great granny at her home in Carrickshandrum, Killygordan.The Love of LucozadeAmong the great memories that family members recalled this week was Catherine (who was affectionally known as Cassie in Ireland and possibly Katie in America) and her great love for Lucozade, an energy drink created by Thomas Beecham, from Newcastle.He made it out of glucose syrup to provide a source of energy to people who were ill. Lucozade’s original name was Glucozade until they removed the first letter from Glucozade.Georgie Reilly, Catherine’s granddaughter, her great granddaughter Tracy Alexander and her Great Grandson Dean Gillespie all have great memories of Catherine Gregory with a big bottle of Lucozade complete with its glossy orange plastic wrapping beside her at her chair up in the corner of the kitchen beside the range. Tracey Alexander a 4th generation descendant of Catherine Gregory, just one of the family members that helped with our story the week, along with Ronnie and Georgie Reilly and Dean Gillespie. Photo Brian McDaidAs children they all looked forward to the offer of a wee drink which she would pour them from her bottle. Even in her 90s Catherine had her daily drink of Lucozade even though her doctors were telling her it wasn’t that good for her tummy.She really enjoyed music and was continually humming a tune as she when about her days’ work, one of her favourite programme on TV was “The Good Old Days” and she really enjoyed all the big words that the presenter, Leonard Sachs would introduce the acts by and she could join in on many of the monologues.“The the Good Old Days”Tracey Alexander also can remember a lovely black shirt that she wore with pink flowers, and a magic small black handbag which they would be sent for which Catherine would give her great grand children money from.Catherine always was remembered by her family with her hair back in a bun. And her granddaughter Georgie can recall her great ability to wash dishes with her hands washing away submerged completely in boiling water!Back in 1975 Catherine celebrated her 90th birthday on the 3rd of September in Kee’s Hotel Stranorlar. Her husband Bob had died in 1951, 24 years prior.Catherine celebrated her big day with family including her son George’s daughters, Eileen Reilly and Kathleen Kee, both living in Cappry Ballybofey. Also there that day was her brother William Gregory from Donegal Street, Ballybofey and other members of her extended family.Dean Gillespie provided us with a fine picture of Catherine sitting in her front garden at her home at Carrickshandrum, Crossroads. She is pictured on the edge of a beautiful flowerbed made from a tyre painted white.Dean Gillespie provided us with a fine picture of Catherine sitting in her front garden at her home at Carrickshandrum, Crossroads She is pictured on the edge of a beautiful flowerbed made from a tyre painted white.This is an account that her great grandson Dean Gillespie posted up this week about the great granny he thought so much about.“This is a picture of great gran in her later years at the back of the house at Carrickshandrum – I have it in my office in the hope that some day some inspiration will rub off from it onto my work…“I remember her well, she would be sitting in the corner of the living room near the range and always had a big bottle of Lucozade, she would give me a sip and always gave me money, it was a coin but I don’t remember how much it was.“As far as I know she was his personal maid not secretary, I remember my granny used to always tell me about how Mark Twain would get her to massage warm olive oil into his hair.“When she went on the boat to America she brought scone bread with her wrapped up in damp flower bags to keep it from going off. By the time she got there she would have to tear off the moldy edges to get at an edible piece. There were rats on the boat and a lot of people would get sick and die on the journey.“I always remember her as being very stern, when she spoke she commanded everyone’s attention, if she was speaking then you were listening, I think she was well respected, then again she had tales from far away lands that few at those times could only dream about.“My granny had a picture of his house like a postcard, Mark Twain had signed it, and some books – she would take them out of a press in the corner an odd time and show them to me, telling me what she knew about him.One of Mark Twain’s most famous books ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ which was signed and presented to his employee Catherine Gregory who was originally from Ballybofey but went to America to work for the famous author. Photo Brian McDaid“She said that Mark Twain was very fond of her.“It used to be great watching ‘Huckleberry Finn’ when I was young knowing that there was a connection in it.“I remember the day she passed away, we were down in our neighbour’s yard, the late Crawford Taylor, getting Barley rolled for feeding the cattle, when we came back up someone met us at the road and told us ‘great gran is after dying’.“I remember them moving furniture around in the room but nothing else about it, I was only 5 or 6 so it was most likely my first encounter as a child with death.Its great to see her memory kept alive after all these years!Dean has the original chest that Catherine travelled to America with. It may now be completely empty, but like the echoes in Twain’s short stories it’s full of beautiful memories just waiting to be bounced off someone.On a final note Catherine Gregory was a great servant and friend to Mark Twain and his family and she did have a great life experience in America. She also was there when Mark Twain went through some of his lowest times in his life.Mark Twain’s daughter Jean Clemens suffered from epilepsy all her life and in turn it was that condition that is believed to have taken her life while having a bath. Catherine Gregory talked of this with wild sadness over her life back home in Ireland.Catherine was there the morning Jean died.An extract for the New York Times on the 25th of December 1909 reports:“Miss Clemens and her father were up late last night discussing plans for Christmas Day and talking of the future. This morning about 6:30 o’clock, Katie, one of the maids at Stormfield, who usually accompanied Miss Clemens wherever she went, rapped on her door and asked if she were ready to dress.“No, Katie, you can wait an hour, for I am going to lie in bed and read,” said Miss Clemens through the door. She often did this in the morning before arising, so the maid went away. An hour later she returned to the bedroom, which is on the second floor of Stormfield. Miss Clemens was not there. Her father hears the news.“Katie went at once to the bathroom. One glance inside and the maid screamed in terror. She ran to the door of Mr. Clemens’s room, who was still in bed, and told him that he had better come at once.Finally I would just like to thank the two generations of Catherine Gregory’s family, Georgie Reilly the driver of the bus that put us on this great journey in the first place, his sister Georgie Reilly who was so helpful in giving us additional information. Dean Gillespie (Great Grandson) who wrote a brilliant piece on his own experience of knowing her also Tracy Alexander, a great grand daughter who helped us so much this week to put our final piece on Catherine Gregory together.Happy Motoring FolksDD Motoring: Fond family memories shared of Catherine Gregory, who worked for Mark Twain was last modified: March 1st, 2017 by Brian McDaidShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:brian mc daidcatherine gregorydd motoringmark twainlast_img read more