A deep love that survived long distance in the good old days before FaceTime and mobile phones, Susan and Fergus McCarthy are a testament to old-school romance.
The pair met in a Midleton pub, introduced through a mutual friend.
Susan described their relationship as ‘a miracle'.
“It was definitely the relationship that was never meant to be!”
Susan had a boyfriend at the time, albeit in the UK, but after a number of casual and friendly encounters, in mass, the pub, and down the shop, Fergus managed to wangle his way into her heart. Alas, the perfection was threatened when Susan started to spread her wings, heading off to France to perfect the language.
Susan explained: “I had resolved to move to France to perfect my fluency in the language I now had a degree in. Fergus was running the family business alongside his mother at this stage and so was not in a position to come with me.
“So I stuck around because I didn’t want to leave him, but eventually, after two years together, I took the plunge and went to live in France for a year.”
Fergus said the pair used all available methods of communication.
“Many letters were written and mix tapes exchanged and every few days we would both head off to our nearest phone box to exchange stories until our money ran out. I would visit her when I could and she would come home when she could. Overall, it worked well, but it was of course difficult at times.”
As romantic as it was, Susan said, over time, the pair were living very separate lives and when Susan was offered a contract extension, all seemed lost.
“At first, it was very romantic, with love letters, mix tapes, and packages arriving by post, with photos, memos, sweet treats, Taytos, etc. But as time wore on it became more difficult and we were leading increasingly separate lives. After my first year there, I signed a contract for another year with the company I was with in France and I flew home to give Fergus the news. We decided to break up and it was really hard on both of us.”
Susan said far from being delighted with her freedom, she felt lost without Fergus.
“Once I had my newfound freedom, I found I missed him more than ever. Like, all the time. He was undoubtedly the kindest, most loyal, caring, and sincere person I ever met and I had let him go. Everybody who met him only had good things to say about him. Then there was that cheeky grin and those green eyes! He was also unbelievably romantic, and he never ever gave up on me.”
After they broke up, Susan said they ended up talking on the phone even more than when they were going out.
“The emotional tension had been building up between us for some time. Eventually, he asked if he could come to see me in France, as he had holidays coming up and nothing planned. Of course I said yes.”
Fergus said while they kept in touch, they never discussed if there were boyfriend or girlfriend, but he knew they were getting on well, so he asked to visit.
“She didn’t take long to say yes, but it was one of the longest seconds of my life.
“So off I went to France, imagining thousands of ways it could possibly go wrong, but as soon as we met, I knew I was all right.”
Susan said she was won over immediately.
“He came over and we met in Paris and that was it! There was nothing else for it, he had won my heart and there was no getting around it. I would move back to Ireland as soon as my contract finished up.”
Fergus said Susan is a special character that captured his soul.
“I never met anyone like Susan. From day one she blew me away and everything since confirmed my first instincts. I had to fight hard to win her and I have no regrets.”
Susan said after Fergus traveled to France, the rest was a whirlwind.
“We got engaged the following year and married the year after – and we have never looked back since!”
Together 31 years and married 26, with two daughters aged 21 and 17, the pair are as strong as ever.
“All these years later, he still has that cheeky grin, with a few more lines around the eyes! Even though he drives me mad at times – as I do him – I consider myself lucky every day that we still feel as strongly about each other now as we did all those years ago.”