The young widow of Lough Ree victim Daryl Burke gave birth on Saturday to the daughter they both craved – but who will never see her father.
Ella Louise Burke was born to devoted mum Louise and scaled in at 7lbs 4.5ozs at Craigavon Area Hospital – the first girl in the Burke family that now numbers four. She has three brothers, William (7), Callum (4) and Brooklyn (2).
And in the ward where Louise cradled their first daughter, a picture of Portadown Piker Daryl was prominent. Louise had also placed a scan of baby Louise and of her proud family in Daryl’s coffin as he was laid to rest last month.
The family revealed that Louise and Daryl had chosen the name, having discovered on Christmas Eve that their fourth child was a girl. They decided to keep the baby’s sex secret until the birth, but Daryl was so overjoyed that he kept it for just an hour!
Sadly, he took the secret of the baby’s name to his grave, but the extended family loves the name Ella Louise. Daryl’s mum Denise said, “We’re all delighted that everything has gone well. But there are mixed feelings – we’re so sad that Daryl isn’t here. It’ll be tough for Louise – she’s only 29 – to bring up such a big family, but she has the support of her family and friends.”
The day before the birth, Denise and husband Aubrey were down in Drogheda, helping the Boyne Rescue Service – who recovered Daryl’s body from Lough Ree after a determined 16-day search – in their fundraising day.
Along with them was daughter Julie and their young granddaughter Sophie. With Lynn Maxwell – who initiated the food run from Portadown during the rescue marathon - they helped the charity raise cash in Drogheda with a bucket collection.
“They were tremendous and we’ll never forget them,” said Denise. “They, the Civil Defence, the Lough Ree RNLI, the Sub Aqua and the Garda simply refused to give up until they found Daryl’s body.”
The service rescued Markethill man John Trimble, but Richhill man David Warnock died in hospital after he was pulled alive from the lough. Three fellow Pikers – Clifford and Stuart Forbes and Phil Neill – were in a second boat on the ill-fated trip.
Meanwhile, the Pikers will be the hosts of the rescue services, and other people from the Lough Ree area, like the owners of the Hodson Bay Hotel who accommodated people from Portadown. They have invited 20 people to town for a special day. This week, the council voted to provide them with a meal at the Civic Centre as a “thank you” for their kindness and courage.