A top Omagh literary historian, Dr John McGarvey, has concluded that Charles Dickens got his inspiration for A Christmas Carol after being forced to holiday in Ballyjamesduff with his parents in 1839 for a whole week.
Poring over Dickens’ diaries from that time, Dr McGarvey is adamant that the character of Scrooge could be based on over 40 different men he encountered during his stay in the 1966/67 Irish Tidy Towns Winner location.
“A few times Dickens, who was only a teenager at the time, wrote about local men as ‘the most wretched and miserable humans to walk this entire land’ and wrote of a man who liked to sit around the fire on a cold winter’s night and if it was really bad, he’d even light it.”
Nailing down who the character of Scrooge was seemed to be an impossible task though McGarvey is looking into the possibility of it being a certain ‘Hugh Reilly’ of whom it was said he was so tight that he would only breathe in and would check under his bed in the morning to see if he’d lost any sleep.
Adding strength to McGarvey’s claim, the word ‘humbug’ is a close relation to the local Cavan gaelic word ‘hámbeag’ which means ‘tight’.
“I’m leaning towards the idea that Scrooge was based on Hugh Reilly. It was said that Reilly once found a discarded pair of manmade crutches, went home and broke his son’s leg so he could use them.”