The O’Loughlin Clan gathered in the Amber Springs Hotel in Gorey on Saturday 25th October, 2008 to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of my Mum and Dad (Phil and Joe). With us were all the in-laws, neighbours, and friends of Mum and Dad – about 60 people altogether. Unfortunately, bad weather on the Irish Sea meant that Brian could not travel over from England – I spoke with him earlier in the day and while he was disappointed not to be with us, he was very much in our hearts and thoughts. We had a toast to Brian during the after dinner speeches.
For me the party started early – I went to the hotel at about 4.30 to set up the presentation that I had planned. I have spent a lot of time preparing the presentation, collecting photos, searching through my own photograph collection (both film and digital), selecting background music, and working with my cousin Janet Edwards to get some video messages from Mum’s Canadian family into the presentation (thanks Janet for all your help, especially at a sad time for your family). I was as excited as a Rolling Stones Roadie setting up a concert. I had my laptop from work (thanks NCI), my iPhone, speakers, projector, scanner, and camera, all connected – it looked like an AC/DC concert with wires everywhere. I set up everything fine and was ready to go – I wanted to include some final pictures, which Mum brought, and some photos of their arrival at the hotel. Despite the bad weather I got some nice shots of their arrival. Kathleen and Eileen worked hard setting up the tables – the layout with mirrors, stones, and candles really added to the sense of occasion. I felt sorry for the hotel representative who was looking after us – Eileen worked for Hotel Kilkenny and was expecting high standards from the Amber Springs!
Mum and Dad arrived in a Rolls Royce at about 7.00 pm and were greeted at the hotel entrance by all their guests. We had a nice sherry reception (I’m not a sherry person, so I had a pint instead!). It was great to meet up with all the family – the last time I had met them all was at Uncle Charlie’s funeral last year.
For dinner, we all settled down before Mum and Dad arrived to a great reception from everybody. I had a poster created for them which was posted just outside our function room – this was very much appreciated. We had a very pleasant dinner followed by some speeches. Dad’s brother Paddy spoke first – he was, as usual, very funny, and told some stories from the time Mum and Dad were courting. Dad spoke next and was his usual confident self – he particularly thanked Mum for her support and friendship over the past 50 years, a special moment. Mum spoke to thank everybody, especially Uncle Paddy whom she presented a bottle of Paddy whiskey to as a “Thank you” for his discretion 50 years ago. My nephew Brendan Kelleher spoke on behalf of the younger generation – while nervous, he was very good and he represented his cousins very well. Dad’s sister Eileen also spoke before my big moment arrived. Mum's cousin Brendan Byrne spoke on behalf of the Byrne side of the family. I had not prepared a speech – deliberately, as I wanted to speak from the heart. I’m very proud of my Mum and Dad and I hope it showed in my words. All of above was ably managed by Joe.
I started my presentation with some photos of Mum and Dad before they got married – the background music was “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Next I had a series of news items from 1958 (music – “The Washington Post” marching band music) culminating in the news that Mum and Dad got married in 1958. Next up was some pictures of Mum’s parents Kathleen and Paddy Byrne – I played their 1958 wedding message recording during this section (this is playable from one of my earlier blog posts). I followed this with a “Next 50 years” section – lots of photos of family over the years. I did this with background music from Edith Piaf (“Je ne regret rien”) and Barbra Streisand (“The Way We Were”). Then it was time for the Canadian video messages – this worked very well and added to the sense of occasion. Finally, I had a “Moments in Time” section (Music – Whitney Houston and “One Moment in Time”) – this used all my favourite photos of Mum and Dad. I also had a couple of photos of their arrival at the hotel. The presentation got a great round of applause at the end – Dad wants it on DVD! Maybe I’ve a career in the movies ahead of me! It was a relief that all went as planned and I could now relax a little bit more – phew!
As you would expect with a party involving Mum and Dad and a lot of their Carnew Musical Society friends there was a lot of singing after dinner. Each table sang a song from a musical – this “competition” was judged in X-Factor style by Fr William Howell who was attending a wedding downstairs and is a long time friend of Mum and Dad. Loads of people got up to sing afterwards. Dad, Joe, and I sang “The Bold Gendarmes”. Joe and I also sang “Fifty Years Ago” as well as “When I’m Sixty Four”. Highlight of the singing was Dad’s rendition of “The Mountains of Mourne”.
It was a late night, which we rounded off in the Resident’s Bar of the hotel. Joe stayed with us in Skuna Bay and we got a late taxi home and got to bed at about 4.30 am.
Today was a great day for our family – especially for Mum and Dad. We love you both, and many congratulations on achieving 50 years.
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