Life Health & Wellbeing

Wednesday 20 March 2019

The first time... Some well-known Irish women talk about losing their virginity


Claire Balding
Claire Balding
Former minister, Mary O'Rourke
Annie Gribbin
Sheila O'Flanagan
Singer Mary Byrne

Everyone has a first time having sex and, while some remember it with fondness, others cringe at the memory. Andrea Smith asked Irish personalities to share their first experiences, yet few were willing to talk - and not one man we approached would participate. It took these fabulously frank women to share their special memories

Mary O'Rourke 

Former Politician and National Treasure

When I was growing up, we didn't get sex education at school, but there was a "bold" girl in our class, and she told us that if we came to the hockey shed at 4pm, she'd tell us what sex was. So eight of us trooped down with her, and she told us in her own way and we all kind of gasped. I didn't think it sounded very pleasant at all. I was about 15 and that was my introduction to sex.

I was married in 1960 when I was 23 and Enda was 25, so we were two babes, if you like, two innocents abroad. We were engaged for a year and I had been going with him for two years before that. I fell for his looks and we were drawn sexually to one another. But I lived in a time when you didn't indulge in sex before marriage, and the very worst thing that could happen to a girl was that she would be pregnant outside marriage. Mind you, I fully approve when I hear that young people live together before marriage these days, because how do you know if you're compatible?

I liked the way Enda looked, and he also had a very pleasing personality. We were very sexually attracted to one another, so we skated very, very near to the edge many times in our relationship, but we didn't do it. It was hard and there was a lot of pent-up repression, because we would get very worked up, but something held me back and I couldn't do it, even though I loved him and he loved me.

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Former minister, Mary O'Rourke

I got married on September 14, 1960, and it was a big hooha of a wedding with everyone there and everyone delighted, and nobody more delighted than the pair of us. Later that same day, we drove to Dublin and on to the Channel Islands for our honeymoon. We landed at our hotel and were going to bed together for the first time, and we both thought that this would be the culmination of all the near-things we did. We were now going to be together, and heaven awaited both of us. But, you see, it didn't.

We got into bed together, and first of all, we were both physically very tired as it had been a bloody long day. We turned to one another and began courting the way we had when we were sitting in a car together, and then it happened. Was it all bells and whistles? No. Did the moon break though? No. And was there loud, passionate music? No! Enda had sex with me and I responded to him and then we broke apart and went to sleep.

The next morning, we were talking about it because we could always talk to one another, and I said, "That wasn't really great, was it?' And he said, "No, but it was my first time," and I told him it was my first time too. He thought he was at fault for not making the bells explode, so to cheer him up, I said, "It will get better, Enda," and it did.

We hired a car and went all over the islands, and were in each other's company the whole time, so we got warmer towards one another - really warm. The first time had been pretty painful, but that worked itself out pretty quickly. I also think that the situation was different because, rather than skating near the edge and getting worked up in a car, we were finally allowed to do it and it wasn't forbidden fruit any more. On top of that, we were exhausted and in a strange bed, and there was an expectation that the sun would shine in the middle of the night.

But as we went along, we were learning together and the sex got better and we were beginning to enjoy it. And before we left the Channel Islands, we felt very much in tune with one another. And then we came home and set up married life together, and as life went on, things got better and better and warmer and warmer. I never stopped loving Enda in a physical sense, and he with me, and even to the very end, I lusted after him. If we hadn't had sex in a few nights, I would be looking forward to it again.

We were very compatible, and even as we got into middle age, we never lost that sexual liking for one another. People say that married people fall into a rut but that never happened to us. Maybe it helped that I was in Dublin from Monday to Friday, so when I came home, Enda and I were looking forward to being together again and we were very happy.

He died 17 years ago, and I never wanted another man in bed. I'd often meet a man in the course of public life and I'd say, "Oh he's good looking, isn't he," to myself, but I would never want him in that way. My sex life ended when Enda died, and it had been very lively until a few days before he passed. We always wanted to please one another during sex and it was never a selfish thing, which is lovely, and our passion for one another was one of the big joys of our marriage.

Sheila O'Flanagan

Author of 'The Hideaway'

Sheila O'Flanagan

When I felt that my then boyfriend and I might sleep together, I went to the Dublin Well Woman centre and asked for the pill. I was 18 and, in the 1970s, it seemed a reasonable age to lose my virginity, but I was very concerned about the possibility of getting pregnant.

Maybe other people remember the first time with clarity, nostalgia or even regret, but the truth is I don't remember much about it at all. It happened at my boyfriend's home - he lived with his parents and they were out. There was no great discussion about it but it was undoubtedly going to happen.

Neither of us were much good at it, I definitely remember that.

Afterwards, though, he told me it had been the best moment of his life, which confirmed my belief that, in everything, I set the bar higher than he did! I don't remember anything else about that night. Did we stay at his home or go out? Did we talk about it? I doubt it, he wasn't a talker. What did I feel? Nothing much, to be honest.

I've had better sex since then, fortunately, and I remember it a lot more fondly. My first time was irrelevant to me. I didn't feel any differently afterwards, and it doesn't bother me that I really can't remember.

Claire Balding

Social Media Influencer

I was 17, on holiday in Spain and it was something I wanted to get out of the way. I had "have sex" on my list of things to do in 2004, and, of course, I expected it to be ticked off with the love of my life. But that wasn't to be. Chet was my destiny.

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Claire Balding

Chet was English. I got his name and nationality and that's about it. I wasn't scared - the cocktails helped, but I wasn't comfortable. But I kind of felt like I needed to do it... it was about time. And, as I say that, it makes me sad.

It wasn't at all what I expected, it was awkward, sore and mortifying. Emotionally, I was OK, once I never had to see him again. Looking back, I really feel sorry for that 17-year-old, because the whole experience was so unemotional.

At almost 31 and two kids later, I don't want them to feel like that. I want them to be educated, safe and comfortable. When the time comes, I'm going to talk to them. I'm good at that.

Annie Gribbin

Celebrity Make-Up Artist

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Annie Gribbin

My first time happened when I was almost 20 and on my first continental holiday in Crete. My sister and I met these absolutely gorgeous Swedish boys about five days before the end. My guy was called Sjell and he was a stunning-looking, tanned athletic man, like a young Brad Pitt. I had never seen teeth like his in my life.

It was very passionate, I don't remember being kissed by anyone the way he kissed me. It was incredibly lustful, but I didn't want to have sex as I wanted to save myself. I was a very good girl at that time.

On the last day, we were leaving Crete and the boys behind, and we were devastated. I'll never forget the tears as we said goodbye to them. We sat on the boat for a few hours, and were then told that it had developed a problem and we wouldn't be able to leave for another couple of days. We ended up getting taxis back to the resort, and although there were no mobile phones back then, we knew where we would find the boys. I can still remember the emotional scenes as we met up with them again, and in that moment, I made up my mind that I wanted to be with this guy.

The guys were camping on a beach, and I ended up with Sjell in a tent. I remember it being very hot in every respect, and we were melting into each other with the heat. I was nervous about the physical act as it was my first time and I was afraid of getting pregnant, but we used protection. Sjell was a bit more experienced than me, and the whole thing was very romantic. It felt right and it felt good, and I knew it was special and something I wouldn't forget in a hurry.

We were madly in love with one another and we kept the relationship up for a year after we came home, visiting each other for weeks at a time. His parents had prepared a bed for us to be together, but mine were devout Catholics, so we were in separate rooms in my house. It fizzled out in the end but I remember the whole experience with great fondness.


Mary Byrne


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Singer Mary Byrne

I was just 18 and I was dating a guy I worked with for about a year. He was six years older and I think he was getting a pain with me because I wasn't ready to have sex. We had a long talk and then one night in October, we were in a pub in Tallaght, and things got a bit hot under the collar. I thought to myself that I was with him a year and he was a nice guy and he cared about me, so I said to him that we'd take that step.

Of course he got all excited and the only place nearby was an old graveyard. We went in and he put his coat down under a big oak tree, in a corner away from the graves. There was a full moon shining and it was a beautiful night, although it was pretty cold. And then it happened, and I remember lying there and thinking, "Is this it?" All of my friends were doing it and saying it was great, and I was lying there thinking that they were all liars.

After the big build-up, it wasn't what I was expecting in the end. I wasn't thinking about being in a graveyard, because I was caught up in the moment and I was scared and was unsure of what I was doing. It was a surreal sensation for me, mentally and physically, and it was quite painful, and although I enjoyed the kissing and cuddling afterwards, I didn't feel anything during the act itself. He was a nice guy and I was happy it was with him as he cared about me. We stayed together for four years, and I'm glad to say that the sex got better after that.


Rachel Sarah Murphy


My father passed away when I was 15 and my sister and I lived alone after that. When it came to sex, we had made a pact with him that we weren't going to do anything until we were at the right age and felt comfortable. Also, I did drama as a teenager and was very confident, and I always ran my own race and didn't give in to peer pressure.

I started dating a lovely guy at 17 and I was besotted with him. We'd been snogging, but he was a bit older than me. When I was 19, he was 25 and that seemed more comfortable to me, so we talked about it first and the decision was made to have sex.

My friend had an apartment in Kinsale, and she said we could stay there for the night and it was absolutely perfect and very romantic. He was so loving and it was one of the nicest moments of my life and a really good experience. I think that was because I was ready and knew it was with the right person. I trusted him because the first time is a scary thing for any teenager, male or female, and I knew he wasn't going to go behind my back and talk about me.

After all that, he wanted to see me afterwards and I said I couldn't as I was rehearsing a show and I didn't want anything serious. I think I thought, 'Well that's done, I've had sex and it was fine, and now I'll just get back to my career." The great thing is that he and I are still friends to this day, and I'm always telling everybody that he popped my cherry!


Geraldine O’Callaghan

Media personality

I was going out with a lovely guy for six months before we did it. I knew I wanted to have sex with him after about three months, as he was my first love and he was mad about me and would have done anything for me.

I was lucky as I have three big sisters, and we always had these bedrooms chats and they were fairly honest and open with me. I discussed it with them and they gave me advice, and one sister talked me through putting on a condom, using a banana.

We did it when he had a free house in the middle of the day, because his dad was in work and his mam had gone out. I had built it up to be a big thing in my head, but when it happened, I felt in control. It was his first time too and and he was probably more nervous than me about it.

I expected a bit of pain on entry, but it was minor compared to what I had imagined, and once he was inside me, it was really lovely and I felt very connected to him. It was a beautiful experience, and when it was over, we went for round two!

Afterwards, I felt that there was a really close bond between us and we went out for about three years. And still to this day, I think of him with fondness as he was always a gentleman to me, and I was very lucky that I had the nicest experience for my first time.

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