My youngest daughter is getting married in 48 days time. I have been living alongside K and her partner for the last year so I have got to know the man she is marrying very well.
I have been to Tipperary and met most of his family. I was fortunate enough to have met his beautiful mother before her untimely death and I am on very good terms with his father who happens to be very good at solving cryptic crosswords.
I know K uses honey to sweeten his coffee, he enjoys making bikes and riding them, his laptop is an extension of his right arm (that is when he is not using it to play his guitar), he waxes lyrical about a band called the National as do his sister and brothers whom he loves dearly, he has uncles and aunts go leór who mostly live in the shadow of the Rock in Cashel and generally speaking he is an upbeat and positive person. I have no doubt that he will make my dear daughter very happy and he is a future son-in-law in whom I am well pleased. He will be her rock.
How different it was for my mother and father. They were introduced to Peter only four months before we were married. I had met him in Newquay in August 1960 just before my 21st birthday and we were married in February 1961 in a Catholic Church in London with a hired dress and ‘my niece in Broadstairs’ for a bridesmaid.
My parents knew very little about him except that he was a Catholic Irishman who played cards in a style reminiscent of cool hand Luke. His background and parentage were unknown to them and none of his relations were coming to the wedding. He insisted we got married in a Catholic Church otherwise he said it wouldn’t count. That was all they knew and I didn’t know much more. But I was in love and nothing else mattered.
The night before the wedding Peter was nowhere to be found and my brother was concerned. I was very calm. I had learnt the hard way that I was marrying an unconventional man who had no regard for proprieties or doing what other people expected of him. Hadn’t I, after all, been through the meeting with the priest at St Joseph’s?
When we went to the church to organise the wedding, official forms had to be completed and birth certificates produced. When the priest asked his name and date of birth Peter said 1st May 1939 and gave a name I had never heard of. I couldn’t believe it. “What are you saying, Paddy, your name is Patrick Byrne and you were born in 1936.” But I was wrong.
From our first meeting he had told me he was three years older than me and that his name was Patrick but friends called him Paddy. He explained that when he came to Ireland first he was too young to work and had borrowed the identity of a friend and had got into the habit of using that name in case he was found out. In any case, he said, everyone calls Irishmen Paddy over here.
The priest was not impressed and said this was deceit and no basis for a marriage and made us come back to be lectured to several times before he would agree to marry us.
My brother needn’t have worried, Peter turned up at the church on time and married life began. I was to learn a lot more about Peter over the coming years but never ever regretted marrying my beautiful boy. Who else could have assisted in the production of my eight wonderful children?