The Quiet Visitor
Spring came on tiptoe down the bens
Of sea-girt Inishowen,
And glided through the shady glens
Her coming still unknown.
But everywhere her gentle tread
Impressed the eager soil
A creamy primrose raised its head
Beside the rippling Foyle.
Mabel Rose Stevenson was born in Castlecary in 1875. She was a cousin of the novelist Joyce Cary, who was one of her mentors. The lines above are from her book DAUGHTER OF DONEGAL published in 1945 in Los Angeles, far from her birthplace. As I drove along the shore of Lough Foyle this week, through Ballyrattan and on to Redcastle, the poem came into my mind. The magnificent trees that mark out the Cary demesne at Castlecary are cold and gaunt but the warm sunshine of Spring will soon bring a burst of greenery to the landscape.
Mabel married Henry Stevenson (1856-1907) in 1900 in Inishowen before emigrating to Canada and USA. They had a son Arthur Lionel Stevenson in 1902 who became a Professor in Berkeley University. He was first cousin of Joyce Cary and the only child of Mabel and Henry. Mabel lived for a time at Falmore, Whitecastle and at Clar Cottage before she emigrated.
One of her poems is about a lady called Mary the Milk who came from Ballyharry; she was known to the family as Crazy Mary. In her poem, THE REWARD FOR ENTERPRISE, she describes how she longs for Inishowen, its mountains and streams. In THE BARTERED BRIDE, she recalls a lady from Ballynally called Kitty Kelly. In FOWL PLAY, she recalls bleak Drung Hill, which has “scarce a tree”. Her early youth spent at Castlecary and along Lough Foyle provides many vivid and colourful images for her collection of poems, which are now out of print.