A CORK couple preparing to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary opened up about the night they first locked eyes as strangers in a crowded dance hall.
Now 93, both Eileen and Peter Browne say they are just as in love as they were in their teens, maybe even more so. Next month will see them mark a milestone occasion after 70 years of marriage. Peter cast his mind back to the night they first met.
“It was ladies’ choice that night,” Peter recalled. “That meant the ladies could choose who they wanted to dance with and Eileen chose me.”
Peter was instantly smitten. “Eileen had a bit of everything,” he laughed. “She was the best looking one in the place and the best dancer. They don’t make women like her anymore.”
Peter recalled the night with impressive clarity. “Women were on one side with the men on the other. There was no such thing as everyone mixing and you had to leave space between you while dancing.”
It was Peter’s dance moves that initially caught the eye of young Eileen. She also remembers admiring the waves in his hair. Their daughter, Vivienne, never tires of hearing how their love story began.
“Mummy always said that she married my father because he was a great dancer,” Vivienne said.
“However, what she really loved were the waves in his hair. That was something she talked about often.”
Vivienne said that her mum and dad moved to Coventry together while courting.
“My mother was the go-getter at the time and had made her mind up early on that she was going to live in Coventry. Daddy decided to go with her because he was so in love. She worked in a factory while daddy was a labourer.”
Peter explained that he was happy to emigrate in light of the climate back home.
“There was no work so we were all leaving Ireland like wild geese,” he explained.
He recalled how rationing was still in effect soon after the war.
“We both lived in hostels across from each other. We had ration books and the government gave us clothing coupons. April 4 was the date you got your tax back so that was when we decided to get married.”
Peter had to ensure he had the permission of Eileen’s father before proposing.
“I bought her father a bottle of whiskey and everything was OK after that,” he laughed.
The couple’s wedding day was simple but beautiful.
“It was pouring snow and we had to run in to get out of the ice. The priest’s black clothes had turned green in parts because they were so old. We had a wedding breakfast but there was no sit-down dinner like there is today. That was okay because there wasn’t so much attached to weddings back then. You had who you wanted to have there and that was it.”
Vivienne said she is glad to have a keepsake from that special day before she was born.
“Mum saved up all of her clothing coupons and bought the most beautiful dress you have ever seen,” she said.
“She had it for years and years, all wrapped up in tissue paper but none of us were ever allowed to try it on.”
The pair returned to Cork to start a family which eventually grew to eight children: Noreen, Tony, Christine, Evelyn, Bernice, Finbarr, Vivienne and Gwen.
Eileen and Peter also have 16 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
“All my dad wanted in life was to go to his male voice choir on a Tuesday and Thursday. My father is solid and I think that’s what my mother loves about him. He made the money and she managed it well which made them a great team. Of all my years with them I don’t think I ever heard them argue.”
Peter and Eileen still relish each other’s company.
“My dad still tips away in the garden and takes care of my mum. They have a lovely routine.”
Peter said he has always been impressed by Eileen’s kindness.
“Eileen is a lovely person who never sees the bad in anyone,” he said. “She has always been full of kindness.”