Celebrating a Donegal couple's 77-year love affair

Family and friends mark John and Bridget Hegarty's 75th wedding anniversary

Declan Magee


Declan Magee


John and Bridget Hegarty

Bridget and John Hegarty who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary at the weekend Picture: Brian McDaid

This weekend Bridget and John Hegarty celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary with a Mass at home in Glenties.
As well as their four children - John, Christy, Lawrence and Eilish - their family includes 17 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren and many of them were among the 60 or so guests who attended Saturday's celebration.
They were married in Edininfagh in 1944 by Fr Danny Molloy. At their 70th wedding anniversary they received a card from a relative of the late priest who had read about their anniversary.

Bridget and John Hegarty celebrating John's 100th birthday with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren outside Glenties last June 

They met at Frankie Kennedy’s dancehall in Kilraine in 1942. They were both keen dancers.
“We enjoyed it, jumping about,” John recalls. “It was four pennies to get in.”
The encounter happened just before Lent so their next meeting at a dance would not be for more than six weeks as there were no dances during Lent.
John would go and visit Bridget when she worked in McDevitt’s factory in Glenties, cycling into the town in the evening.
“They would get out at 8 o’clock and we would be in nearly every night in about the town.”
Their romance started after John asked Bridget to dance. His eye had been drawn by her dancing skills.
“The boy asked the girl to dance then,” he said, sitting beside Bridget.
“I was very fond of the dancing and I liked a good dancer and before I asked her to dance I saw her dancing. She was a great dancer.”
John puts their long life together down to a healthy lifestyle. Neither of them smoked or drank and John loved dancing. Work on the farm also kept him fit and active.
“I enjoyed life no doubt about it,” he said. “I’ve had a great life.”
“I was lucky enough, I never got tied to the booze or the cigarettes and that was a great gift,” he said.
His great hobby when he met Bridget was dancing.
“There wasn’t a hall in the county I wasn’t in,” John continues.
“The company I used to run around with had a car and we travelled to everywhere there was a dance: Kilrane, Glenties, Ardara, Killybegs, Ardaghey, Kilclooney, Frosses, Mountcharles, Leghoney, Glencolmcille, Leitir.”
John farmed all his life, keeping sheep, cattle, and horses, and also worked for the council.
He still keeps five sheep and uses them to train sheepdogs.
He is still active every day and was driving his jeep on his farm up until last June when he turned 100.
“I still get out and take a dog with me.”
He is very appreciative of his long life with Bridget.
“Bridget is my dear wife and I am as fond of her as the day I met her. A good woman is the making of any man. We were a good team. We got on for a lifetime and had a happy life.”
Bridget had a great talent for needlework and the room they sit in is decorated with some of Bridget’s needlework, or sprigging as it was called, some of it 50 or 60 years old.

The couple met in a dancehall near Glenties in 1942

Bridget grew up in Alcor near Frosses and she recalls bringing her finished needlework on the train from Inver to Donegal town. She also took her work by bicycle to Anthony Cannon who ran the post office in Lettermacaward.
The couple lived in Meenawania and later settled at Meenalargan, just outside Glenties.
Having so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren around has created a happy home for John and Bridget.
“They are as fond of me, they have me spoiled. They are great to me,” John says.
John also remembers being given £5 by his brother in law and using it to buy a new bike.
“I bought a new bicycle, a Raleigh, and you would have thought it was a Mercedes car, honest to God.”
Their granddaughter Muriel says John and Bridget get many visitors.
“They have great support around them, and we are blessed to have them.”
Muriel shows John and Bridget photographs from family gatherings in recent years such as the couple’s significant wedding anniversaries and John’s 100th birthday party.
“We celebrate everything,” she laughs.
Muriel recalls with fondness her grandparents' home at Meenawania.
“We used to love visiting them at Meenawania as wee children. That’s where we used to cut the turf and there was a spring well and we used to go to Granny with the buckets to get the water as they were too far out as they did not have the water supply.”
John enjoys visitors and still enjoys getting out and about.
“I be up and down the road,” John said. “The people are so nice. It’s so nice living in the country the people are so homely. I'm used to that all my life.”
John grew up in Kilrane and recalls the family churning their own butter.
He goes to the Glenties Harvest Fair every year and has been to 95. He was the grand marshall in 2012. His first visit was at the age of six.
“I wouldn’t miss it. I remember going down as a wee fella with my father and the donkey and cart. You meet so many people.”