Legend has it that Mary Devine, an immigrant who fled from Ireland in the wake of The Great Famine, walked back to New York from Peoria with her two daughters after her husband died while working on the railroad. Irish filmmakers are now bringing her story to life through a documentary set to air in Ireland around Christmas.
The Journal Star of Peoria, Illinois caught up with director John O’Donnell and contributor Danny Sheehy who were in Peoria filming for their documentary.
O’Donnell and Sheehy have been researching Devine for around a year and a half now, with their hunt bringing them to Peoria, Illinois.
Of Peoria, film director John O’Donnell said, “It's the heart of the film, it really is. This is her ghost, her ghost is here."
O’Donnell first caught wind of Devine’s astounding story when he heard it from Sheehy’s sister. He then applied for funding in Ireland and began creating Devine’s documentary.
However tracing Devine and her story, as it turns out, is no easy task. The film’s team has been working with researchers and historians in both Ireland and the US to help piece together Devine’s life.
"She's quite an elusive lady, she just seemed to vanish for long periods of time," Sheehy said.
"We know she was born in Ireland in 1831, but other than that we don't know how she got here, when she arrived, except that she was here in 1860 up to about 1865."
"I feared in the beginning that this was just a fairy tale, because we knew very little about the woman, we didn't know when she was born," O'Donnell said. "It's like a jigsaw, it's all piecing together and now it's not a fairy tale anymore."
Filming is expected to be wrapped around October with the biopic to be airing around Christmas in Ireland.