IT was the summer of 1964 when Andy Casey saw the love light in Eileen McAuliffe’s eyes on the village Green in Blarney. He was 19 and Eileen McAuliffe was sweet 16.
“She was beautiful,” recalls Andy. “She was dark and Spanish looking.”
Eileen’s eyes alighted on the vehicle Andy was sitting on.
“I looked up and I saw Andy parking his green BSA A50.”
She was besotted with the bike as much as the man.
“I approached him when I saw the bike,” says Eileen, recalling that day when she first set eyes on her future husband.
Was she au fait with motorbikes?
“I didn’t know one end of a motorbike from another!” says Eileen, laughing.
“I cycled a bike — but a motorbike? I hadn’t a clue. But I thought it was a lovely.”
She thought Andy was lovely too.
“We were chatting away for ages,” says Eileen. “And after a while he asked me to meet me again on another night.
“That was 55 years ago and we’re still happy together!” adds Andy, who has had a life-long passion for motorbikes, like his father before him.
“My dad had bikes too. It is in the blood,” says Andy.
“It was him who spotted the ad in the paper for the bike for sale in Bween, north Cork,” recalls Andy.
“I was keen to get a heavier bike than the one I had. We went to meet the man who was selling the bike for his brother in a farmer’s yard. The bike was a beauty!”
And Andy met another beauty when he was out spinning on the bike in Blarney.
“We went out on a date to the Majestic Ballroom in Mallow,” he says.
There was a small obstacle to overcome before the pair became a couple.
“Eileen’s parents weren’t too happy with the idea of her riding on the back of the motorbike with me,” says Andy.
But the couple found ways around meeting.
“They’d hear the roar of the motorbike if I called at home for her, so Eileen would come up the road and she’d hide in behind the trees and I’d pick her up! If her parents heard the motorbike coming, I’d be in big trouble!”
Eileen recalled: “My parents would have a stroke if they knew my new boyfriend owned a motorbike!”
From that fateful moment on the village green, Andy and Eileen’s life journey began, brought together in part by their love for the classic British motorcycle.
“We started dating and we’ll be married 55 years in April,” says Eileen.
Lady Fate stepped in again when, almost 55 years since they first met each other, the couple were reunited with the same motorcycle to which they credit their first meeting.
“We got married two years later after first meeting,” says Eileen.
The couple have four children and six grandchildren. When the family arrived, a car was more practical than a motorbike and the couple sadly parted with the BSA A50, replacing it with a car.
“When the children grew older, we got other bikes and we enjoyed riding around the south-west of the country. It was our hobby,” Eileen says.
But they never forgot their first love.
“We often talked about that first motorbike,” says Eileen.
“I was always feeling kind of guilty that Andy had to sell his beloved bike. Once I traced it back to Dublin. I got to Store Street Garda Station and they told me who had it, but the owner had sold it on again and we couldn’t trace it after that.
“We didn’t think about it again for a long time after that.”
Eileen and Andy got to know lots of friends in the vintage bike club they belonged to after acquiring other motorcycles and they enjoyed heading off on the open road to Killarney.
“We’ve made friends from all over,” says Eileen.
“From Japan, Germany and Greece, we’ve made worldwide friends.”
And they never forgot the Royal Star — the BSA A50.
“We often thought about it and talked about it.”
Eileen and Andy enjoy the camaraderie of the biker community.
“Andy does all the riding, but I have two bikes,” says Eileen.
“In all our years we have never come off the bike. Andy is an expert motorbike driver.”
He’s a good teacher too.
“Andy taught me to ride my BSA Honda.”
She looks the part.
“I wear leathers for protection. Heading over the Healy Pass, riding along the curving roads up the mountains, is a wonderful sensation.
“On the rallies you might start in Killarney, stay in a hotel and do The Ring of Kerry or The Ring of Cork.”
While taking part in a vintage motorbike ride, the couple thought they were seeing things when they stumbled upon their first bike by chance.
“We saw it parked up on the road and it was the bike my husband had owned when I met him that Sunday in Blarney,” says Eileen.
What did they think?
“We were shocked,” says Eileen.
The bike was the same but different.
“It was definitely the same bike, but it was painted a different colour,” says Eileen.
But there was no mistaking the machine that had brought the couple together.
“I said to Andy, look at the Reg!” says Eileen. “That’s the bike!”
“It was a lovely green colour when Andy had it, but it was changed to red.
“It was just a coincidence to see this man. We had seen him around before. But it was a coincidence that he had that specific bike on that day.
“It had come full cycle after all the years, so you can imagine how we felt.”
Eileen and Andy approached the owner.
“He was a very nice man,” says Andy.
“He was from the UK and he was married to a nurse from Mourneabbey. I told him the story.”
But the man had fallen in love with the Royal Star too.
“He had no intention of selling the bike,” says Andy.
“I asked him to let me know if he ever changed his mind and to give us first refusal.”
Better late than never.
“25 years later the man rang me!” says Andy.
“He got my number from guys that knew me. We were thrilled! The bike was in great condition. The mechanical side of it was sound.”
Another labour of love began.
“I got the bike back last year,” says Andy.
“I stripped it down, the whole lot, to get it re-painted in the original proper colour.”
The bike is purring with pleasure.
“She runs beautiful,” says Andy.
“I have her tuned up now. She’s running lovely.”
It’s a wonderful story that is gaining attention.
“Our daughter Catriona lives in London,” says Eileen. “She put the story of us being reunited with the bike on her Facebook page. There was a lot of interest in it.
“People tell us it is a lovely story amid all the gloom of Covid. It’s really nice to share good news and happy things at a time like this.”
The Casey family share a love of motorbikes and love taking to the open road.
“Our son Liam and his wife Suzanne are fans of the bikes as well and they join up with us sometimes which is lovely,” says Andy.
“It’s good fun really. We haven’t had a chance to go out on any long journeys due to Covid and the bad weather but we hope to go out on jaunts later in the year.”
Nothing will hold them back.
“I have a bit of trouble with my knees and elbows now,” says Eileen. “But I can still handle a bike!”
Did Andy ever think the mint green bike would lead him to more than five decades of happiness with the girl he spied on the village green?
“It had a bit to do with it all right,” he says. “The bike brought us a lot of happiness and great memories. I think she fell in love with the bike more than me!
“But anyway, 55 years down the road we’re still together. So I must have been doing something right!”