Brackagh couple Bertie and Anna Toal celebrated 65 years of marriage this week – and there was an ever-so-slight disagreement over what constitutes their long and contented married life together.
Anna (87) suggested it was because she usually did what she was told, but Bertie (92) wasn’t so sure, although he had the wisdom and experience not to argue!
Underneath the banter, it was obvious that the Toals did things together over their 65 years living in the rural idyll of Horseshoe Lane, close to Newry Canal and the Dublin-Belfast railway line where the passing trains give added character to the surroundings.
They ran the family farm together, where Bertie’s speciality has been ploughing and Anna her prize goats, which she has shown with great success. And they have a great expertise “in cows, spuds and hay”.
Anna has also been a great support to Bertie in his activities with the Mullahead Ploughing Society, of which he was patron until he stepped down from duty just three years ago. He joined the society as a child, and started off with horses, graduating to tractors.
They were wed on June 1, 1950, at Anna’s home church, Waringstown Church of Ireland, and nowadays are members of Newmills Presbyterian.
They met in Lurgan, when it was fashionable for young people from far and wide to go for a Sunday stroll along the Gilford Road – they travelled from their homes by bicycle to the popular meeting place.
They have a son and daughter Douglas and June, Douglas being Anna’s maiden name. And their daughter-in-law Jean Toal describes them as “the best grandparents and great-grandparents in the world”. There are seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, with an eighth on the way.
They have a noticeboard in the living room, with eight badges attached, containing the names of the third and fourth generations, with an eighth badge awaiting.
“We love them all,” said Anna. And among the cards of congratulations is the traditional greetings from the Queen.