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Covid fails to take shine off Achill couple’s platinum

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PLATINUM ANNIVERSARY Gilbert and Margaret Ferguson celebrated their 70th anniversary last Wednesday in their home in Achill.

Fergusons celebrate 70th wedding anniversary with afternoon tea and well wishes

Anton McNulty

HAVING first caught each others eye in a Kilburn dance hall many years ago, the spark between Achill couple Gilbert and Margaret Ferguson remains as bright as ever as they celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary.
On October 21, 1950 Enniskillen native Gilbert Ferguson married Tonragee girl Margaret Cafferkey in the Our Lady of Compassion Catholic Church in London’s East End, across the road from West Ham United’s former stadium in Upton Park.
Seventy years later, Gilbert and Margaret, now aged 97 and 93 respectively, celebrated seven decades of marriage with a somewhat low-key celebration in their Achill home. Only one of their three children, Sheila, was able to join them in marking the landmark occasion because of the Covid restrictions.
Despite this, the couple received bundles of cards and flowers and calls wishing them well on the day, and Sheila said they did not let the current restrictions dampen the wonderful achievement of 70 years of marriage.
“It is an achievement and something quite unique to be alive and be able to mark their 70th anniversary. We couldn’t have a big do but it was nice to receive all the flowers and cards and phone calls from family and friends. It was disappointing, but it was about trying to make the best of the situation,” Sheila told The Mayo News.
“In the past they have marked major events in their lives, such as birthdays and anniversaries, by hosting parties in Achill and England to celebrate with family and friends, but my parents understood and accepted the situation.
“On the day they enjoyed listening to their surprise announcement on Midwest Radio and marked the occasion with afternoon tea at home.”
Love story
After they married in London, the happy couple moved to Coventry where they raised their three children, Sheila, Paul and George. Sheila explained that while growing up her parents placed an emphasis on them receiving a good education as well as keeping in touch with their Irish heritage, with Gilbert playing an important role in the Coventry branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
“They placed importance on education and encouraged us to gain experiences outside school. We attended lessons in judo and music. All three of us went to the Marion Turley School of Irish Dancing and travelled around England to take part in competitions and this resulted in George winning the Under 16 World  Championships in 1970 in Dublin,” Sheila recalled.
Gilbert worked as an engineer at Self Changing Gears company in Coventry, while Margaret worked in catering. In 1988 they decided to return to Ireland, settling in Polranny in Achill.
“They settled in quickly, and enjoyed living closer to relatives and people they grew up with,” explained Sheila. “They made the most of every opportunity to attend social events and celebrations. They often travelled to Enniskillen and to England to visit relatives and friends, including their grandchildren in Liverpool, George, Hugh and Cecilia Ferguson.”
For now, the Covid outbreak has confined Gilbert and Margaret to their home, but Sheila said they have been supported well by their neighbours and the local community and are very appreciative of the help they receive, which allows them to stay in their own home.
Having been together for 70 years many people will want to know their secret to a happy marriage. According to Sheila, they say it’s simple: “Work together and support each other.”