A Very Old Irish Mystery: The Disappearance Of Little Mary Boyle.

Mary Boyle. this picture is said to have been taken shortly before that day.

We have been to the north western corner of Ireland before in the case of John Duffy. In this article we look at the opposite sort of victim. Where as Mr Duffy was a very big man who’s fate is known Mary Boyle was a very small girl who vanished without trace.

Cashelard, County Donegal. Open country with two bodies of water close by. Both were searched by divers.

At A Glance The Case Of Little Mary Boyle

At seven years of age she was living with her family in County Donegal. On 18th March 1977 she set out across open land behind her uncle who was returning a ladder to a neighbour. She was at her grandparent’s place near the County Fermanagh border.

He says she was talkative and when she stopped talking he turned around. He saw her heading back the way they had come. He assumed she was heading home. Later when no-one had seen her a search ensued. There was no sign of the girl from that day to this.

The Case In More Detail

The isolated house where this mystery began belonged to Mary’s grand parents. She and her siblings were there while her parents were visiting the day after St Patrick’s day. Her twin sister, Ann, remembers Mary following their uncle Gerry Gallagher as he set of to return the borrowed ladder.

In one account it says that a stretch of water was too deep for the little girl and she then turned back. In the film above that is not mentioned. On the face of it this child simply changed her mind and turned back to her grand parent’s house.

The entire distance between the house and the neighbours is said to have been 400 yards (370m) so even her little legs should have covered the ground in five to ten minutes. She never made it.

So after about 3.30 pm you had a small girl out in unforgiving boggy terrain as night approached. The searching was intense and came to nothing. A witness claimed to have seen a suspicious red car but otherwise nothing out of the ordinary was noted.

Appeals have been made over the years and controversy has clouded the horizon. First there is a strange tangle that suggests that as suspects were questioned and released, political pressure was placed on officers to not question some people too closely.

I have read through various accounts and I am still not sure if there is any evidence of this. I am not doubting the claims. I just can’t report it as a fact at the time of writing. Later on officers have denied that there was any pressure to go easy on anyone.

The most telling controversy is a split in the family. The twin sister, Ann, is on record stating that the answer to what happened to her sister can be found in the family. I have linked the Donegal News reporting of this below.

To counter this Mary’s mother roundly says that her daughter has got it all wrong.

Mary Boyle. this picture is said to have been taken shortly before that day.

A Few Thoughts

A lot can go wrong when a small child is in ground like that which surrounded her grand parent’s home. That said a search should have turned her up. It is not impossible that she is still out there in some fold of ground or fallen down some long lost digging. It hardly seems the most likely explanation however.

Even lost and wandering she should have been recovered quickly. She is unlikely to have ignored people who were shouting her name. Also I do remind myself these were farming people who knew the land, it is largely open country not heavily wooded like the awesome forests of North America.

The area is dotted with out of the way homes and crossed with narrow tracks and lanes. I think back to the awful story of Sarah Payne. This was a little girl who was running through a field with her brothers trailing behind. It only took a moment for an inadequate to pull up in his van and take her. Her rapist and killer was caught and now exists in a prison.

I can’t say Mary had easy access to a road. I can only point at that one example of many to illustrate how quickly a child can be taken. Sarah Payne’s brother was a witness and so the cops had a place to start. Her killer ( I won’t write its name because it does not deserve a name) was a known sex offender who lived about five miles away.

Regrettably because we are a ‘tolerant’ society you have to watch your kids as if  you were guarding a king’s ransom in gold.

Take Care



New documentary on disappearance of Mary Boyle