The story behind a wedding dress used as an angel’s robe at Cork nativities for two generations... 

Here we publish one of our features from Cork's Holly Bough
The story behind a wedding dress used as an angel’s robe at Cork nativities for two generations... 

Keara Cronin and her husband Vincent on their wedding day 50 years ago.

FIFTY years ago, recycling, to most people, meant getting back on your bicycle after falling off.

But even then, Keara Cronin, a bride-to-be in 1971, was doing her bit for sustainability.

She designed and made the gorgeous wedding dress on the left for her big day, but rather than consigning it to a wardrobe or the attic, it has since been worn on many occasions by her children and grandchildren at Christmas nativities.

The dress, while fashionably short on Keara in 1971, is ideal as a long white gown for little angels and shepherds!

And when Keara and her husband Vincent, of Bishopstown, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on April 2 this year, she found the family heirloom still fitted her slender frame.

Vincent and Keara Cronin. The wedding dress still fitted Keara on the couple's golden wedding anniversary this year.
Vincent and Keara Cronin. The wedding dress still fitted Keara on the couple's golden wedding anniversary this year.

The couple’s daughter, Muireann Ni Chroinin, said: “Sadly, we were not able to gather to celebrate with my parents for their golden anniversary as we had hoped, due to Covid restrictions.

“Ironically, their wedding 50 years ago had much in common with its Covid-era counterparts. My mother’s father had been ill following a stroke, so they decided to go to the Vatican to wed, with only two family present.”

Muireann, of Model Farm Road, said her mother was not the type to have a big white wedding, even though she loved wedding dresses.

Keara grew up in Ballinora, Co Cork, and became a primary school teacher, Vincent was a teacher then principal of Ballinora National School and retired in 2006. He won an All Ireland minor football medal with Cork. Muireann said: “He met my mother on his first day at work when she dropped by the school and was peeking in the window to see the new teacher!

“Their wedding nearly did not occur as they missed their connecting flight to Rome out of London due to a travel agent error. They also had to go to the Irish embassy in Rome to swear their identities due to a discrepancy in the paper work and just got the embassy official before he went on holiday.

“The wedding finally went ahead and they had a super 8 cine camera whose recordings we have today, which show how young and in love they were. They had a traditional Italian wedding breakfast with an ice-cream wedding cake.”

Keara Cronin on her wedding day.
Keara Cronin on her wedding day.

As for that fabulous dress, Muireann said: “My mother made it herself, and, although it was well above the knee, she cheekily says it was her longest dress at the time. It was an iconic early 1970s mini-dress with a ‘Jackie O’ A-line silhouette, adorned by a simple mantilla-like lace hood and sleeves.

“My mother used to help a local dress- maker, Maura Hegarty, make wedding dresses while she was growing up.

“Little did she know on her wedding day how much of a career that dress would have. It featured in nativity and other plays for decades. It was the perfect length for a four-year-old Christmas angel. I insisted on wearing it myself when occasion allowed until I outgrew it. Several of the grandchildren, including my own son, have worn it in the school nativity in the last decade.”

Keara, who taught drama and was involved in it with Ballinora ICA, and Vincent have four children and eight grandchildren. Muireann said: “My mother made most of our dresses when we were growing up, including our Communion dresses. One Christmas, she made an entire new wardrobe of dresses for my large collection of dolls.”

Pearse O Croinin in 2012 wearing the dress in a nativity play.
Pearse O Croinin in 2012 wearing the dress in a nativity play.

On the golden anniversary, Muireann made a montage of photos of the dress over the years, which family and friends loved. “This was followed by a stream of socially distanced visitors to the window of their home, making it a truly memorable day, despite the restrictions. My mother was even convinced to put on the dress and pose with my father. It is a credit to her that it still fitted 50 years later.

Daughter Muireann wearing the dress back in 1976 for the nativity play.
Daughter Muireann wearing the dress back in 1976 for the nativity play.

“Like the dress, my parents’ relationship has gracefully endured the test of time. The dress is a family treasure that will hopefully adorn many Christmas angels for generations to come.”

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