Cork couple celebrate 40 years married after meeting on the buses

Geraldine and Mick Dunne met when they were both working on the buses in Cork city, and recently celebrated their ruby anniversary. Geraldine tells CHRIS DUNNE about their journey
Cork couple celebrate 40 years married after meeting on the buses

Geraldine and Mick Dunne from Turners Cross, who recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Picture: David Keane

THEY celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year - but the first stop in Mick and Geraldine Dunne’s love story was on the buses.

“Mick and I first met at work in Capwell Garage in December, 1980,” recalls Geraldine. 

“He was a driver and had been there since 1971, I had just started as a conductress.

“He struck me as a quiet, shy type despite his look - he was known as the ‘Adrigole Hippy’, he had a huge head of curls, a beard and wore wooden beads.”

Mick was a union rep, involved in GAA club and the social committee, and was second row at rugby.

"I thought he was married,” says Geraldine. “In early 1981, a ‘matchmaker’ asked me if I’d go to the union dinner dance with him. That’s when I realised he wasn’t married. I was seeing someone at the time so I declined.

They marked their 40th anniversary recently.
They marked their 40th anniversary recently.

“Some time later there was a petrol strike and Mick came into The Hut in Patrick Street looking for someone to jump start his car. No-one had petrol but I had, I had got some when I was at home in Millstreet the day before.

“I helped him start his car and he asked if he could buy me a cup of tea to say thanks but I was going back to work and he said, ‘Sure, I’ll buy you a drink some time’. I remember feeling sorry I couldn’t go for the cuppa.”

It was fate, as their paths were to cross again.

“One Sunday night at the start of May, I was on the No 3 bus on my last run into the city from Ballyphehane and Mick got on the bus by Capwell Garage on his way back into the city after being in Thurles at a Cork game. He asked what my plans for the rest of the night were and I told him I’d wanted to go home to Millstreet earlier but had failed to get another conductor to relieve me so I was just going back to my house.

“He suggested I come and join him and his West Cork friends in Con’s American Bar. I said yes. Mick asked what I wanted to drink and said he’d have one ready for me at 9.45pm when I finished work. As I was going in the door I saw the barman passing the bottle out to him.

Mick and Geraldine Dunne in the Examiner in December, 1987, after the married couple's six-year partnership on the No.3 bus ended when she took early redundancy and he continued on the new 'one-person buses'
Mick and Geraldine Dunne in the Examiner in December, 1987, after the married couple's six-year partnership on the No.3 bus ended when she took early redundancy and he continued on the new 'one-person buses'

“That time the bar closed at 10.30 so we went for a Chinese in Washington Street and walked back after the Capwell garage. 

"We arranged to meet again the next night and never looked back after that!

Geraldine recalls their first date and a whirlwind romance.

“He took me to KCs for chips for our first date. We got engaged after three months and married six months later, on February 13,1982, in St Patrick’s Church, Millstreet. The receptionwas in The Avenue Hotel in Killarney.

The couple celebrated their rugby wedding anniversary in February.

“We didn’t go on honeymoon until September,” recalls Geraldine. 

“We used the CIE free travel perk and travelled by boat and train to Lloret de Mar in Spain. That was the first of many trips and we took the children in later years to lots of destinations in the UK and Europe using the free travel.

After we were married, we were still on different routes with different rest days. We often only saw each other across Patrick Street when his No 7 bus and my No 3 happened to be in the city centre at the same time!

“This couldn’t continue, but you couldn’t just swap to another route to be on the same bus either. It was all about seniority.

“After a few months, my driver moved to a more ‘senior route’ and Mick applied to be the driver on my bus. Life changed completely then. We were able to travel together on our weekend off to our native homes in Adrigole and Millstreet.

“My parents were very fond of Mick from day one. My mother said he was a cross between her favourite brother and my dad.”

The couple settled into married bliss.

“My father gave a great bit of advice to us in his speech at the wedding,” says Geraldine. He said, ‘To hell with the Jones’ and to hell with what the Jones’ think about you’. He said that’s what made his a happy life and he hoped it would be for us too.”

And it was.

“We bought an old house in Turners Cross a few minutes walk from Capwell Garage. It needed a lot of work but we did a bit of cosmetic work and moved in. We worked on it a room at a time over the next couple of years.

“We often come home after a late shift and hacked plaster off a wall. We worked well together, the only thing we’d differ on would be colours. I’d like a muted colour but the past hippy in Mick wanted bright colours. We always found a compromise.”

The couple had a daughter, Michelle, in May, 1983, and a son, David, in May three years later.

In 1987, the ‘one person bus’ was looming and discussions were ongoing between unions and bosses.

Their six-year partnership on the No.3 bus ended when she took early redundancy. Picture: David Keane
Their six-year partnership on the No.3 bus ended when she took early redundancy. Picture: David Keane

“It just make sense that I would take the newly agreed redundancy package,” says Geraldine. 

“Mick got an increase in pay and we didn’t have childcare costs anymore.

“We had five great years together as a crew on No.3 bus. We’d play cards and 20 questions to pass the quieter times. We didn’t trust each other with the 20 questions so we’d write the answers on a bit of paper and put it into the hatch, where the handle for changing the destination scroll was!

“The passengers were lovely especially ‘the bingo women’, who played several times a week, and we had great craic on the bus on their way home. 

"When our daughter was born, they passed a Roches Stores bag around the bus when Mick told them the news. He arrived into St Finbarr’s and tipped a bag of £1 notes onto the bed. The bingo people were the salt of the earth.”

The couple marked their 40th anniversary with a mass and family lunch. “We were just coming out of Covid so it was the first family celebration in a long time,” Geraldine says.

“We have four lovely grandchildren. Two live next door to us with our daughter and her husband Declan and the other two are in Perth where our son emigrated to 12 years ago. We have been to visit him and his wife Lisa twice.”

The Dunnes have a happy life.

“Thank God,” says Geraldine. “We were a good balance for each other. Mick was quiet but strong. I’d think I got my way in something that he might want to do another way and then he’d quietly do it his way anyway.

“Mick worked shifts, weekends, lots of overtime and rest days during the time I was at home when the children were small to provide for us.

“We were very lucky he was CIE staff as nothing changed much for us financially during the two recessions that came and went during our time together, and when you don’t have big financial worries, it helps."

Mick and Geraldine enjoyed holidays with friends when the kids were teenagers.

“We had lovely mutual friends and a great social life,” says Geraldine. 

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last as we lost a lot of those friends in their fifties. It wasn’t a good time and we were back doing stuff on our own again.

“We still like to go to Adrigole or Millstreet to visit my mother on weekends. We both love sport, especially rugby, and enjoy going to the odd Munster game.

“Before Covid, our routine was mass in town on a Sunday evening, dinner, a couple of hours in a music bar and then go back to a local bar for a bit more music. 

"Now we go for food and a few drinks and haven’t ventured into the busy city bars yet. Soon it will hopefully be warm enough to sit outside again.

“We like to get away to the sun in the spring and autumn, usually to the same destination, and we always enjoy city breaks.”

Life is good for the Dunnes.

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