WHEN John and Mary Kelly married, it was a few months before the assassination of JFK and around the time of Beatlemania.
They tied the knot in Luton on September 7, 1963 and their golden anniversary was celebrated in August, a little bit ahead of the exact date.
The couple have seven children and Mary says the celebrations were moved ahead to make sure all the family were in Shannon for it.
“The reason we had the anniversary then was that we have a son, Michael, who is working in Africa. He happened to be at home so we had it then. We wanted us all to be together.”
Michael is actually based in the north but is in Africa as part of his job. However, the rest of their children are all relatively nearby.
As well as their seven children, they have 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, who is a daily visitor, according to Mary.
“The great grandchild would be here everyday. The grandmother, my daughter, minds the child and she’d be here about 12 o’clock and goes again about two o’clock.”
When she was just 16 years of age Mary, who was the eldest of six, moved to London to a first cousin and soon picked up a job as a waitress. John arrived in England around 1960 and worked in a factory and in construction. The two met in a Luton dancehall in 1962.
They came to Shannon when the opportunity of a job in Limerick emerged. “We stayed in England until 1978,” says John. “At the time, they were advertising for workers in Ferenka in Annacotty. They were also supplying houses for the workers in Shannon. At that time, the houses here in Shannon were two a penny. In every block there might have been only one or two families; there were houses idle all over the place. You did the interview at the factory, got the job, filled in a form and you had your house.”
So they were back in Ireland, apparently well set up. However, before John’s job training had even finished, there was a serious problem ahead.
“I was there about 13 weeks, doing training and there was trouble inside. There was a picket at the gate and then it closed. That was the end of it. I was back to square one again. But then I got a job with Stephen Finn contractors and I was with them for a long time.”
Shannon was handy for their children, close to schools and with plenty of space for them to run around. However, Mary didn’t take to the new surroundings overnight. “It took me about a year to settle here. I didn’t know anyone around here and I had built up lots of friends here over the years. After a while, I started doing an evening shift at EI and I did that for eight years. I got used to it then and made a lot of friends.”
The children settled well but John says both himself and Mary had wanted to get back to this country. “For ourselves as well, we were getting on a bit and we thought if we could finish up in Ireland it’d be great. (Laughing) I wouldn’t like to die in England.”
The celebrations of their golden anniversary consisted of a mass said at the Oratory in the town centre, which was attended by friends and family, followed by a meal at the Oakwood Arms.
Both of them say a combination of things resulted in a happy marriage. “It’s a bit of everything, this and that. We were happy and the kids kept us focussed,” according to John.
Mary feels both of them have a fairly similar temperament. “We’re easy going, both of us. You have to be in this life really.” “There’s no good in getting excited,” John adds.
They say the years have gone by very quickly and John says he was surprised that a full half-century has passed. “I was sort of taken aback by it. You’d be thinking about it coming and then when it comes, you’d be wondering where did all the years go?”