WHIDDY islander Tim O’Leary and his partner of 27 years, Kathleen Swanton, went back to school to tie the knot.
Tim says there was nothing significant in the date they said ‘I do’, February 27th – it just happened to be the first Saturday that the celebrant, Damian Maloney, was available.
What was symbolic was the fact that the ceremony took place in the old schoolhouse – a building that the couple have preserved as a tourist attraction and multi-purpose meeting room.
The couple and their respective witnesses – Tim’s nephew Eoin Furlong and Kathleen’s niece Ruth Swanton – also marked the occasion with ‘a sleepover’ in the 34-bedroom hostel they built next door.
Tim told The Southern Star that he had just come back from working in England and set up the Whiddy Island ferry, 27 years ago, when Kathleen caught his eye after visiting a friend on the island.
He said they both knew from the beginning ‘this was it’. And, as a couple, they continue to work well together in their ferry business and new tourism venture.
It did, however, come as a surprise to Kathleen that they were in the pub and restaurant trade.
About nine years ago, Tim said the owner of The Bank House was planning on closing it down when Tim told him it would ‘finish the island’.
An ‘if you are so smart’ conversation ensued and, at the end of it, Tim said he went home to break the news to Kathleen that they’d taken on a completely new venture.
Covid-19 notwithstanding, The Bank House has been a success, and the couple are looking forward to the day it will re-open.
Having the ceremony in a schoolhouse, that Tim restored to the way it was when he was a boy, was special.
But one of the most enduring memories of the day, said Tim, will be that of his 90-year old mother, Noreen, waving at them from across the road.
‘She didn’t come in,’ he said, ‘because she was due to get her vaccine the following week, and I’d rather have her here next year, than there for the day.’
As for married life, Tim added: ‘More of the same will do me fine!’