Did you ever wonder how the infamous Huckleberry Finn got his name? Aisling Davis of Finn Valley College has the answer!

“I only heard the story myself in January from my granny” Aisling told Rachel White of Donegal Woman. The Finn Valley College student, currently in 2nd year, was surprised to say the least when she found out about her great great grandmother.

The story starts off with Catherine Gregory (Aisling’s great great grandmother) a young woman living in Stranorlar. At the age of 16 she left Stranorlar and set off on a six week journey to Ellis Island. While on her journey she was under the care of Miss Bates-another Donegal woman. Miss Bates had already put in a good word for Catherine in her workplace-Park Avenue, New York.

According to Aisling, she differs from her adventurous great great grandmother a bit. She wouldn’t fancy leaving the country at 16 “We’re a bit different, I’d rather stay at home!”.

Young Catherine got the job. She was now housekeeper to a man called Samuel Langhorne Clemens who we all know as Mark Twain. Starting out as housekeeper, Catherine put in a lot of hard work and was quickly promoted to secretary.

Catherine often spoke to Twain about her homeland and local area, in particular the River Finn. This is where that amazing but subtle link to Donegal is shown. It was at this point in time when Mark Twain began writing of one of the most famous classic novels-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! The young Catherine Gregory and her stories of her home had inspired Mark Twain in his most acclaimed piece of literature!

After 7 years of dedicated work she decided to visit Ireland, it was while on this holiday that she met her future husband-Bob Gillespie. After this holiday she went back to work for Twain, all the while sending letters home. It was these letters that made her miss Ireland even more and she eventually returned.

But before she left, Twain himself gifted her two of his novels. One being “The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc”-Twain’s final novel. The second, more interestingly, a red leather bound signed copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. On the inside cover was written: “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.

An image courtesy of Sotheby’s website proudly exhibiting the hand written inscription from mark twain to his Donegal employee, Catherine Gregory on one of the books that the author gave to Catherine when she worked as his personal secretary in America.

Some literary talents seem to have been passed down to Aisling- “I love writing! I do diary entries and short stories”. She also hinted that she might someday retell the inspiring story of her great great grandmother. “I would definitely like to tell her story in the future”.

Aisling quickly made good use of her history. As part of the new Junior Cert, students are required to speak and present in front of their class. Aisling chose her great great grandmother’s riveting story to share with the class. It’s certainly a distinctive tale and one that showcases a pocket size piece of history and a link that the Twin Towns and Mark Twain will always share.

“The CBA in the new Junior Cycle has given Aisling a great opportunity to share a piece of her family history with her classmates. It is a unique and compelling story. Aisling is a very hard working student and her classmates were all really interested in her tale” Aisling’s English teacher Ms. Gallagher told Donegal Woman.

Pictured below is Aisling with her great great grandmother’s copy of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

By Rachel White.