Saturday, 14 February 2015

Irish Valentines


Jimmy and Mary first met as teenagers working in the Whitegate oil refinery in Cork in 1957. Mary worked in the canteen and always made a point of serving Jimmy, and a relationship eventually blossomed.

Both subsequently emigrated to England - Jimmy to Oxford and Mary to Liverpool. The romance continued with Jimmy visiting Mary until a misunderstanding led to a breakdown in the relationship. They parted ways and didn’t hear from each other again, until a note was passed to Jimmy in a restaurant in Cork 54 years later.

The prayer
“I remember one night kneeling down and saying my prayers and I asked God because now I’m 74 years old and I’m alone and I don’t want to be alone anymore could he fix it to send me a female friend just for company,” says Jimmy. “And then I was cheeky…I said God - how about Mary Kelligar?”
Born on Saint Valentines Day 1939 in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, Jimmy uttered his prayer six weeks before making a planned holiday back to Ireland from the UK in May 2013. On that trip, his cousin approached him while out for a meal with family and asked for a quite word in private. She handed him a note.
The note

Mary visited Ireland frequently with her son, who works as a teacher in Liverpool. After a  trip back to Ireland in 2013, a chance conversation sparked between her son and the school secretary, who is originally from Cork, resulted in the two establishing a connection between Mary and Jimmy, who it turned out she knew. They conspired to draw up a note with Mary’s contact details, and somehow get it delivered to Jimmy.
Mary consented to the proposal but was sceptical about the note, suggesting in the unlikely event it found its way to Jimmy “he won’t want to bother”.
“I looked and I looked and I looked at the note and I thought, this is a wind up,” she says.
It took Jimmy a moment to get over the initial shock of receiving the note. His cousin explained how she had been the fifth person to handle it as it made its way from Liverpool. She asked him what he was going to do. He said: “Nothing.”
The reunion
But Jimmy did eventually call Mary. A meeting was arranged and Jimmy travelled to Liverpool to see her for the first time in 54 years.
On the coach journey, he was gripped by fear and doubt. “What will she be like? She’ll have changed. This won’t work out. I might not be the same as what she visualised me to be.”
But his fear dissipated when they met face to face, and walked and talked as they had all those years ago. Finishing each other’s sentences, both said they felt as if “we were never parted”.
The pair returned to Ireland on holiday two months after reuniting, and revisited all their old haunts. They are now in a relationship again. Jimmy still lives in Oxford, and Mary in Liverpool, but they visit each other about once a month.
Return to Ireland
Jimmy is no doubt now about the impact their reunion has had on him: “It rekindled that time… and I’m not ashamed to say it I’m like a teenager all over again.”
Jimmy and Mary are in the process of moving back to Ireland together permanently from the UK. They plan to spend their remaining years together in Midleton where they first met as teenagers.

“Life is too short, why not be happy,” Mary said.
© Irish Times


  1. 54 years and it felt as if no time had passed. sweet.

  2. What a delightful story. I know I feel like a teenager again having met the second man in my life.

  3. Grace said: I saw that article, isn’t it fabulous. I love stories like that. So beautiful x

  4. What a lovely story, i'm a bit of a sceptic about valentines day commercialism but real life romance is hard to beat x

  5. Sweet story for today. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Oh how wonderful, just shows, it's never too late.

  7. That quote at the bottom should be writ large and hung on the wall of everyone's house where it can easily be seen. It is absolutely essential advice to follow. H appy Valentine's Day.

  8. I so agree with Weaver.


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