Books on Irish Folklore Donated to FSU in Memory of Holly White

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A collection of books on Irish folklore has been donated to the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center in memory of Fairmont State University alumna Holly White.

Rev. Richard Bowyer and his wife, Faith; Rev. Maria Wiblin of the Wesley Foundation; Chris Morgan of the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc.; Dr. Judy P. Byers, Director of the Folklife Center; Stephanie Blizzard, a Pierpont Community & Technical College student, and Jess McIntyre, an FSU student, who are studying Folk Literature; and Jessica Linger, a Pierpont student studying Museum Studies, gathered on Monday, Feb. 9, to dedicate the donation on behalf of Gary Crooks and his wife, Sandra, of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Students and visiting researchers at the Folklife Center will now be able to use the books in the Holly White Collection to study Irish folklore and its connection with Appalachia: “Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance & Folklore” by Alfred Nutt; “Ulster Folklore” by Elizabeth Andrews; “Legacy: The Scots Irish in America” by Allister John McReynolds; “True Irish Ghost Stories, Haunted Houses, Banshees, Poltergeists, and Other Supernatural Phenomena” compiled by St. John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan; “Irish Ghost Stories” with stories by W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Sheridan Le Fanu and others; “A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore: Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry” edited by W.B. Yeats; “Cuchulain of Muirthemne” by Lady Gregory; “A Treasury of Irish Folklore: The Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom, Ballads, and Songs of the Irish People” edited by Padraic Colum; and “Myth, Legend, and Romance: An Irish Encyclopedia of the Irish Folk Tradition” by Dr. Daithi O Hogain.

“Irish studies are so close to the Scots Irish lineage in Appalachia. These books will be very valuable to us at the Folklife Center. Some of these books are hard to find in America. This small and mighty collection adds to the Folklife Center’s mission of looking at the variety of cultures that helped to develop central Appalachia,” Byers said.

Bowyer, who has many connections in Northern Ireland reaching back 20 years, helped the Folklife Center arrange a two-week intensive “Roads to Appalachia” study tour in Belfast in July 2012. Holly White was one of the participating students.

“Holly was so impressed and moved by the work of the East Belfast Mission that she asked me to help her explore the possibility of doing an internship there,” Bowyer said.

He connected her with Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, the Mission superintendent, and Gary Crooks, lay leader of the congregation at the Mission. Mason, Crooks, Dr. Johnson McMaster and their spouses visited FSU for a week in 2013. Gary and Sandra Crooks met White and offered to be her “parents away from home” if it worked out for her to come to Belfast for a year.

White of Mathias, W.Va., graduated magna cum laude from Fairmont State with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary and Comprehensive Education and a minor in Folklore Studies in December 2013. She was still considering the possibility of work with the mission in Northern Ireland. She passed away on April 27, 2014, after a sudden illness.

“The staff of Fairmont will agree that Holly was a real encouragement and blessing to them as they watched her grow and blossom into, not just an excellent student, but a young lady to whom they can point as an example for all students to follow,” Crooks wrote in a statement that Bowyers read at the gathering. “We knew her for such a short time, but she truly touched our hearts.”

Each of the books in the donated collection bears the inscription: “Presented to the West Virginia Folklife Center in Memory of Our Friend Holly White, Gary and Sandra Crooks, 2014.”

White, the daughter of Gerald and Jennifer White of Mathias, was an active member of the FSU community, including the English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta, Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, the Honors Program and the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center. The Folklife Center held a memorial service for White in 2014 and planted an American holly bush in her memory in the Celtic Garden located on the hill above the facility.


About the photo:

Pictured from left to right are Rev. Maria Wiblin, Stephanie Blizzard, Jess McIntyre, Dr. Judy P. Byers holding a photo of Holly White, Rev. Richard Bowyer, Jessica Linger and Chris Morgan.