Tragedy ensues when a North Antrim cobbler is told of a 5 thousand pounds American legacy.

On the 24th February 1932, in the beautiful little coastal village of Glenarm in County Antrim, tragedy was to follow, hard on the heels of good fortune.

An old-age pensioner, who struggled to eke out a livelihood by mending local shoes, died from heart failure, after receiving a letter, all the way from Colorado, in America.

The letter revealed that he had been left a substantial fortune.

Mouth of Glenarm River

Mouth of Glenarm River

The victim of this grim jest of fate was Alexander McGavock, aged 74. 

He lived alone in a small cottage just a short distance from Glenarm.

On the morning of his death he had received a communication from a firm of solicitors in Denver, the capital of the State of Colorado, alerting him to the death of his only brother. The letter also included a copy of his sibling’s will, according to the terms of which, he became the sole legatee to an estate amounting to the sum of 25,000 dollars (£5,000) in cash and securities.

The tragic discovery of the old man’s death was made by a local coal vendor, by the name of McAvoy.  He had stopped at McGavock’s cottage to ask if he required any coal. The old man replied that he would take a cwt., and the coal-man went out to his cart. 

On his return with the cwt of coal, he was shocked to find the old man dead in his chair, with the letter from America announcing his good fortune lying on the floor at his feet.

Neighbours were soon at the scene. The local doctor was summoned, but the deceased was beyond any worldly help, due to death having taken place instantaneously from heart failure.

The unusual circumstances of the tragic event, created a sensation in the district, where McGavock — or old Alick, as he was known locally, was a well-known figure.

William McGavock, who died in America, had spent some forty years there, mostly in Denver, where he was employed on the railway.

He was the younger of the two brothers, and no later than the previous year (1931) was back in Glenarm on a visit. He stayed for some time before returning to the United States.

At that time, McGavock was a fairly common name in Glenarm and the surrounding countryside.  However, in spite of that, in the immediate days after the sudden death, no near relatives of the brothers could be found.  William McGavock was a bachelor, while Alexander’s wife had died many years previous, and there were no children of the marriage.

Among locals, there was much speculation, as to what the ultimate destination of the money would be.

In the weeks after the death, local Ulster newspapers asked for heirs to come forward.

Heirs Wanted

McGAVOCK, Alexander, William, brothers, born Glenarm, Antrim, 1855-1860. Alexander was shoemaker Glenarm. Heirs entitled £5,000. Apply JOHN J. DWYER, 40, Wall Street. New York.

Belfast News-Letter
Friday 29 April 1932