ANNE Keane, neé Hurley, can still remember the day she met her husband Danny Keane. She was literally bowled over.
The couple, who met when they were teenagers, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on December 17, 2020. They have been inseparable for more than 60 years.
“I was out on my bike going to see my sister, Josie, and I saw him cycling towards me on the road,” says Anne, from Ardnatrush, Ballylickey.
She wasn’t pushed and she decided to play it cool.
“I decided not to speak to him.”
Danny wanted to get the pretty teenager’s attention and to make an impression. He did.
“He pushed me off the bike!” says Anne, who turns 79 in May.
Anne was obviously impressed.
“Yes, we took it from there and we began seeing each other,” says Anne.
Danny, 81, was a local boy, from Pearsons Bridge, Ballylickey.
“There were only four miles between us,” says Anne. “We met in the middle!”
They were teenagers in love.
“I was 15 and Danny was 17. It was early 1957 and there wasn’t much work in West Cork, so we both decided to go and seek employment in the UK. We took the train from Bantry.”
Seeking their fortune in the ‘Big Smoke’ was a big adventure for the two love-struck teenagers.
“We were a bit apprehensive,” says Anne.
“After we arrived, we stayed in a hostel near The Angel, Islington. It was very strictly run. Lights out at 10pm and you had to be up in the morning sharpish to get breakfast.”
Like many Irish emigrants before them, the couple sought out friends and family who had taken the boat, hoping for prospects of new opportunities.
“Danny had a cousin, Chrissie, living in London. She was lovely to us. And Danny’s brother, Johnnie, had an apartment in the Archway and Danny went to live with him.”
The young couple were keen to get on their feet.
What was it like, being so young, in a strange city, far from home in those times for 13 years?
“They were very innocent times,” says Anne.
“After leaving the hostel, I got a room at Danny and Johnnie’s. We had a Greek landlady who was like our real mother.”
Anne laughs recalling those innocent times.
“We weren’t left upstairs or downstairs together,” she says.
“Danny. Johnnie, and I, had to meet outside! That put paid to any hanky-panky! Our landlady wasn’t having any of that!”
The couple made the most of the ‘Big Smoke’.
“I loved dancing and we often went dancing at The Buffalo, Camden Town, where a lot of Irish people gathered. My dad was a beautiful dancer. I learned from him.”
Was Anne homesick?
“I was the first year,” says Anne. “I cried a lot.”
She missed the close bonds of home.
“All my family are very close. I came from a loving home and I missed them all,” says Anne.
Anne never forgot where she came from.
“I used to send money home for the others. My dad used to tell me to put a pound in the bank every week and later on I’d appreciate it. Dad was a great believer in saving up.”
Danny told Anne they should get married.
“There was no going down on one knee!” says Anne, who was 19 when they wed at Our Lady’s Help of Christians Church in Kentish Town.
“I was working as a secretary then and a friend lent me her wedding dress. It was a beautiful dress.”
Dan got suited and booted for the big day.
Two of Anne’s sisters came over to be bridesmaids.
“We had our reception in a local pub, Tally Ho!” says Anne. “It was lovely.”
They honeymooned at home in Cork, where they first set eyes on each other.
“We got the boat home that evening from Fishguard,” says Anne.
Tracey was born two years later.
“We have nine children and 33 grandchildren,” says Anne.
“And we have a great-grandchild as well. Four of our children were born in the UK. The other five were born in Cork.”
The Keanes have two sets of twins, one London duo and one West Cork duo.
“The London twins, Stephen and Marian, were born in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital before it closed down,” says Anne.
“The doctors there were all lady doctors.
“Our Irish twins, Geraldine and John, are Cork-born, born in Bantry Hospital.”
Twins are in the Keane family. So are triplets.
“And one of our sons has twins, and another one of our sons has triplets!”
The place that Anne and Danny loved so well always beckoned and in 1969 the couple came back to West Cork, where they built their house and brought up their family.
“We had no big expectations,” says Anne.
They got their wish.
“We rented an apartment for two years in Bantry town when we returned in 1969. Danny got a job in Cork, which was an hour’s drive away. He rented a room with two other men in the city and he came home on Friday after finishing work.”
It was the best of times and the couple, raising their young family, thrived.
“We got a plot near my home to build our house,” says Anne.
“Danny used to smoke when he was younger and he gave up so we could save some money. We loved the neighbourhood and we had lovely neighbours who had children as well. We raised the children together.”
Life has been good to the childhood sweethearts, who are married 60 years.
“We are lucky to have our health,” says Anne.
“Danny is a fit, strong man. He recovered from a cancer scare a while back. We mind ourselves.”
Opposites obviously attract?
Anne and Danny have a good thing going.
“We never argued much,” says Anne.
“I don’t remember us ever fighting.”
Their youngest daughter, Annie, doesn’t remember either.
“I never heard them arguing,” says Annie.
“I do remember hearing them giggling on Sunday mornings!”
In the unlikely event of Anne and Danny disagreeing, they soon remedied it.
“We made a deliberate attempt never to make the children anxious,” says Anne.
“Children worry. We always had the discussion before we went to bed.”
Anne and Danny are very happy with their lot.
“We had a good innings,” says Anne.
“We don’t want a lot. But we have a lot. Our own parents weren’t rich but we had a very happy childhood. They were always very kind to us, even though they were strict. My dad was no push-over! We were blessed.
"They are all great pals and we get together in our big garden on Sundays before Covid. They show us their step-dancing and little plays.”
The Keane children grew up in idyllic surroundings, in the place where their parents’ love story began over six decades ago.
Daughter Annie said the pair are inseparable.
“One never goes out without each other,” says Annie. “They are very sociable.”
They are still incurable romantics.
“In later years, they still held hands!”
“They are a great couple and great parents,” says Annie.