A heart-breaking song has been released this week to commemorate the life of the late Leona Harper who tragically died in the Cresslough tragedy last year.
The song, Stolen Dreams, was written by internationally renowned musician Matt McGranaghan in memory of Leona, aged 14. The Mulroy College schoolgirl was one of ten people killed following the explosion at the Applegreen Filling Station on the afternoon of October 7th last year.
Leona’s heartbroken parents Donna and Hugh gave their blessing for the song to be released in the hope that it will help Leona’s memory to live on.
Saturday marks the first anniversary of the terrible tragedy in which ten people lost their lives. A memorial service is due to take place at the scene of the disaster.
The song was originally written for just the Harper family but they have decided to launch it and use the money raised for charities in Leona’s name. All money raised will go to benefiting three charities which played a huge part in the aftermath of the explosion. They are SARDA Ireland North, K9 Search and Rescue and CRITICAL Emergency Medical Response.
Two of these are dog-rescue charities with all three working throughout the night in a frantic bid to find Leona and the others missing in the blast.
Musician Matt, from Castlefin, said it was an honour to be asked to write the song by his cousin Ann Nicholls, a mum of one of Leona’s close friends.
Matt said “When I was asked to write the song I visited Donna and Hugh in their home to find out a little more about Leona.
“What I discovered was that she was such a very courageous and brave girl with so many interests from sport to cars and engines.
“I also learned how important music was to her and I just thought how such a young person could be so in tune with so many different interests in her life at such a young age.”
Matt went home and stayed up until 7am working on the lyrics.
The song turned out to be a duet from a child to a parent and then from a parent back to a child.
The song features lyrics from a poem that Leona cherished, which came with a picture of two horses that she and her mum Donna bought together for her room.
The lines are from poet Sarah Williams poem The Old Astronomer which read “Though my soul has set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly, to be fearful of the night.”
The duet is sung by Leaving Cert student Sophie Gallagher from Manorcunningham who attends Deele College and by Ballybofey singer Chris McLaughlin whom Matt has known for many years.
The Deele College community is extremely proud of Sophie Gallagher’s role in the collaboration.
Matt picked Sophie after working with her on a number of Deele College performances and she is one of the main performers in the Deele College choir under the tutelage of Miss Catriona Bonner.
Sophie says that she wanted to do justice to the beautiful lyrics that Matt wrote in memory of the late Leona, who through the song is forever fourteen.
“It was such a privilege to be asked to perform such a beautiful song, but it was also quite emotional when I first read the lyrics. I was delighted to be able to give my voice to a project that will mean so much to the Harper family, the people of Creeslough and the wider Donegal community.
“I’d like to thank Matt for picking me and I would also like to thank Miss Bonner from Deele College, Terry from Valley studios and Chris McLaughlin who sang with me. It was a great honour to be a part of it,” she added.
The result of the music has been a heart-wrenching journey but a proud one to honour the memory of a young girl whose life and dreams were stolen from her along with nine others on a still Friday October afternoon in Donegal.
Those who died in the Creeslough tragedy and will be remembered at Saturday’s memorial service are James O’Flaherty (48), Jessica Gallagher (24), Martin McGill (49), Catherine O’Donnell (39) and her son James Monaghan (13), Hugh Kelly (59), Martina Martin (49), Robert Garwe (50) and his daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe (5) and Leona Harper (14).