Sunday 22 October 2017

Irish couple Bill and Mary reveal the secrets to their 73-year marriage

Bill and Mary both worked in England in WWII – but only found love when they met in Mayo
Bill and Mary both worked in England in WWII – but only found love when they met in Mayo

Alan O'Keeffe

"A bit of luck and a lot of hard work" are important to a long life and happy marriage, according to Bill and Mary Hunt, who celebrate their 73rd anniversary tonight.

Bill (98) and Mary (94) both worked in Britain during World War II - but didn't meet until they returned home to Mayo.

Mary remembers taking refuge in the cellar of the bar where she worked in Birmingham when bombs rained down close by.

But Bill was not so lucky. He and his brother Michael were having fish and chips in a café in London in 1941 when a German bomb landed beside the café.

"Granddad told me the explosion sent him flying through the air. He was cut by glass in the blast," said granddaughter Karen (33).

"He felt very, very lucky to be alive."

Bill and Mary both worked in England in WWII – but only found love when they met in Mayo
Bill and Mary both worked in England in WWII – but only found love when they met in Mayo

Two years later, in 1943, Bill was back in Kilkelly, Co Mayo, where he had grown up on his family's farm. He went to a dance around Christmas time in Midfield, less than four miles away.

As it happened Mary, a native of Midfield, also went to the dance. Romance blossomed when they met and two months later they were married on Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the Lent marriage ban.

Bill is a Mayo football fan and was in Croke Park to see Mayo's last All-Ireland victory in 1951.

The couple finally settled back in Kilkelly and they have lived on the Hunt family farm since then.

They had two sons and two daughters. Eldest son William (71) and youngest son Michael (62) live on the family farm while daughter Josephine lives in Dublin and daughter Eileen lives in Tralee, Co Kerry. They have 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Michael's daughter Karen (33) also lives on the family farm. Some 19 family members will attend tonight's party.

Bill and Mary told their family that "a bit of luck and a lot of hard work" had kept them healthy throughout their long lives together. They tended cattle on the farm and their long happy years together included tasks like saving the hay and cutting turf.

They have retired from active farming and nowadays six donkeys graze on the land and are treated "like pets".

Their grandchildren have lots of happy memories of events they shared with their grandparents, including family excursions to the seaside in Enniscrone.

Bill still enjoyed a pint in The Corner House in Kilkelly, said Karen.

Irish Independent

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