Wednesday 28 September 2016

Four generations of brides create a touching 100-year-old family wedding tradition

Stephanie Bell

Published 16/09/2016 | 09:50

Rachael Gamble and Stuart Alexander leave St Catherine’s Parish
Rachael Gamble and Stuart Alexander leave St Catherine’s Parish
With Rachael’s parents Chris and Jacqui
Rachael’s great great grandparents Arthur Dawson and Margaret McDonald
Their son James Reginald Leary and Annie Rodgers
Their daughter Margaret and James Dawson-Leary
Chris and Jacqui Gamble

When radiant bride Rachael Gamble walked down the aisle of the ancient St Catherine's Church in Co Antrim to marry fiance Stuart Alexander yesterday, she was keeping up a family tradition that dates back over 100 years.

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The Bangor social worker is the fifth generation of her family to be married in the quaint 18th century Church of Ireland church which is now located within the RAF base in the quiet village of Killead.

With Rachael’s parents Chris and Jacqui
With Rachael’s parents Chris and Jacqui

Rachael had to seek special permission to keep the family tradition going and outgoing minister Rev William Orr was happy to oblige and carry out what was his final wedding ceremony at the church before his departure this week.

Looking stunning as she stepped out of the church as the new Mrs Alexander, a happy Rachael said it meant the world to her that she was able to get married in the church where her great great grandparents, great grandparents, grandparents and parents also started their lives together.

She says: "It was just as I imagined, as I always saw myself getting married here.

Read more: Revealed: This is why it's so expensive to attend an Irish wedding

Rachael’s great great grandparents Arthur Dawson and Margaret McDonald
Rachael’s great great grandparents Arthur Dawson and Margaret McDonald

"Mum grew up in this church and got married here and then moved to Bangor so the church wasn't part of my life growing up and I had to get permission and Rev Orr was great, it was no problem.

"It means everything to me as it is such an important part of our family history and it has just made the day extra special."

Rachael (27) and Stuart (29), an archaeologist, celebrated their big day with 130 of their family and close friends in the Leighmore House Hotel in Ballymena which was no doubt a much more lavish affair than the nuptials enjoyed by previous generations of her family.

Her great great grandparents started the tradition when Arthur Dawson, a labourer, married her grandmother Margaret McDonald in 1910.

Their son James Reginald Leary and Annie Rodgers
Their son James Reginald Leary and Annie Rodgers

Their daughter Margaret then married Rachael's great grandfather James Dawson-Leary, a farm worker, in February 1940.

Their son James Reginald Leary, who was a bus conductor, married Rachael's grandmother Annie Rodgers in March 1962.

Their daughter Margaret and James Dawson-Leary
Their daughter Margaret and James Dawson-Leary

Her own parents, mum Jacqui Gamble (56), a nurse, married her dad Chris (55), a factory engineer, in 1984 and celebrated with 60 guests at a reception in the Dunadry Hotel.

Her great grandparents and great great grandparents are buried in St Catherine's Church yard.

Chris and Jacqui Gamble
Chris and Jacqui Gamble

Rachael says: "All of my grandparents are now deceased. My great great grandfather flew with the RAF during the First World War and my great grandparents met when she worked as a house maid and he worked on the farm run by the house she worked in.

"We don't have any photographs from their wedding because the photographer's office went on fire and they were destroyed before my grandparents got them.

"I know they had a small wedding with around 40 people at a reception in a small local pub."

Rachael, who has one brother Matthew (29), is now looking forward to her dream honeymoon with Stuart in Mexico and Las Vegas.

Belfast Telegraph

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