Cork woman who went missing 44 years ago reunites with man who found her

A Cork woman who went missing as a toddler while holidaying in a Butlers holiday camp in 1975 when she was two years old has reunited with the man who found her.

Cork woman who went missing 44 years ago reunites with man who found her

A Cork woman who went missing as a toddler while holidaying in a Butlins holiday camp in 1975 has reunited with the man who found her.

Colette Ryan, from Fermoy, recalled on the Neil Prenderville Show on Cork's RedFM, how at just two-years-old she went missing for over nineteen hours: "My mother took a photograph of my father and my brother and let go of my hand, and in the second it took for her to take the picture, I was gone.

"There was a massive search, I was gone for nineteen hours. I got out through a hole in the fence. It was a 300 acre campsite and I was actually found the following day about two miles from the camp."

The newspaper article from when Colette Ryan went missing. Picture: Cork RedFM 104-106.
The newspaper article from when Colette Ryan went missing. Picture: Cork RedFM 104-106.

She told Neil there was a panic at the time, with attempts to stop a number of coaches leaving the campsite where about 5,000 people were staying, and an additional 1,000 coming and going as day visitors.

The army were involved, as were tracker dogs, and hundreds of volunteers scoured the beaches, chalets and lakes in search of Colette.

She laughs that she had no memory of the event, but that it must have been horrific for her mother, who had to be heavily sedated in the sickbay, she was so distraught.

A couple of years ago, the now 46-year-old grandmother came across an article detailing her disappearance and since went on a mission to try and track down Martin Rowe, the man who found her.

She was having no luck until she came across his Facebook profile yesterday and they spoke to each other this morning.

Martin, now 66, was on his honeymoon when he found the toddler, after spotting her asleep next to a large red ball in the high grass- just a few feet away from the Galway/Dublin railway line.

I was very lucky indeed... If it was today, what chance would I have had?

Colette said she didn't think he realised who she was when she contacted him initially.

"I said, 'I have so much to thank you for, I've had a great life, I'm a mother and I'm a grandmother' and he was just blown away and thanked me for making his day."

While her mother can now see the funny side, her father still to this day refuses to talk about it.

"I think I was on Martin's shoulders," she said, when asked about what happened when she was reunited with her mother.

"They had me up in the air, and there were hundreds of people... I get emotional now when I talk about it, even though I don't remember it, they could hear the cheers from the medical hospital where my mother was, so they knew I was after being found."

Martin, who lives in Naas, Kildare, was on his way to Dublin but said he would get in touch with Colette again this evening and make arrangements to reunite with both her and her mother.

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