Ann Allan: Memories No 16. The Best Laid Plans…


imageSo the wedding was moving from the country to the big smoke. Ok, Belfast. But there were a lot of pea soupers in those days. Some nights the fog/smog was so bad that you could see little in front of you. However I digress. The focus had shifted and new plans had to be made. The new church had been booked as had the new hotel but that was it. In those days deposits were unusual and so cancelling the original hotel hadn’t been a problem. ( If you haven’t read Memories 15 you won’t have a clue what I’m on about! )

The original hotel I had picked for my reception, Ballyedmond Castle Hotel was raised to the ground by a firebomb left by the IRA in 1979. I was so sorry that I hadn’t been able to bring my guests there. Rostrevor was minus another hotel yet again, the Great Northern Hotel also having  been destroyed by a firebomb in 1978. My sister in law had her wedding in the Great Northern. Such a beautiful setting, backed by the woods and the mountains and sitting by the edge of the sea. What a waste! Today fifty years later Rostrevor has no hotel, though plans have been drawn up and awaiting investors. The destruction of two well-loved hotels didn’t bring us any closer to a United Ireland. But I’m digressing again. Great Northern Hotel Rostrevor
At the  beginning of July the wedding preparations were put in motion for the second time. Invitations were printed and sent out. Most guests were surprised at the venue but didn’t comment.

With my parents living in Rostrevor, a good two hours drive in those days from Belfast, it was left to me to make most of the arrangements. I was given the name of an organist who, if I remember rightly, lived in Brompton Park. We had no transport in those days so we made our way up the Crumlin road on a bus. Thankfully it was a peaceful day and we were lucky to get there and back without any trouble.  We picked a few hymns. Panis Angelicus is the only one I remember. I would walk up the aisle to Handel’s Largo and we would walk down to Mendelson’s Wedding march.

Photos were next. There was a photographer in Church Lane that I had passed many times so he was duly booked. There was little discussion as to what photos should be taken and as a result there was not one photo taken in the church, apart from signing the register. The photographer was unused to photographing in a Catholic Church and was unaware of protocol. I laughed later when Fr.Marcellus said that he could have stood on his shoulders to get a good photo if he had wanted.

On Friday 3rd June 1970 a curfew was imposed on the Falls road. This was to last 24 hours while the Army carried out searches looking for weapons. Five civilians were killed. The curfew was broken by women from Andersonstown marching into the area with supplies.

Meanwhile I was getting on with my wedding plans but fate seemed to be playing its part. Gordon had been complaining of not feeling well. He had a very sore throat and felt generally unwell. He was perspiring at night so much so that the bed needed changing every night. He was diagnosed as having glandular fever. Unfit to look after himself ( he was so weak ) and with his parents away on holiday for two weeks, my mum accepted the role of carer and Gordon moved into my family home. My mum had to look after him for the fortnight and it looked  as if he would not be fit enough to get married.

However, totally on my own in Belfast and being the eternal optimist I carried on with the arrangements. There was a flower shop opposite the Europa Hotel. We chose fresh sweet-pea head bands for the bridesmaids and my little sister was to carry a ball made up of sweet-pea. I chose white and yellow roses for my bouquet. I wrote to Gordon every day telling him how the plans were going but there was one event I didn’t mention.image

I was in my flat one evening when I got a shout from one of my flat mates that I had a visitor. He was at the front door. I went downstairs to find an old friend waiting for me. He said that he heard that I was getting married. He asked me to reconsider. I laughed and asked why I would do that. To this day I’m not sure exactly what was said but I know the gist was that he loved me, always would and that I should marry him. I told him I was very flattered but Gordon was the one for me and the wedding would be going ahead. I didn’t see him again for another 7 years.  Didn’t think it was what G needed to know at that time but I told him later.

On August 11 1970 Two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were killed by the I.RA. when they set off a booby trap bomb planted in a car near Crossmaglen.

Two weeks to go to the wedding. Time to go with the parents to Dunadry Inn to finalise the menu. The cost of the menu was two guineas. Guineas were faded out after the introduction of decimalisation in 1971. There were 100 guests and this menu was one of the dearer ones. I returned there on my thirty-fifth  wedding anniversary with the menu but they were unable to replicate it for the same price.image

Transport had to be arranged to take the guests from Rostrevor to Belfast and then onto the hotel. Not everyone had a car in those days but those that had cars offered lifts and the local taxi firm had all its taxis booked for the day. It was then that it dawned on me that with all my arrangements and distractions I hadn’t ordered any cars to take the bridal party to the ceremony so fingers crossed I set off to find a firm with the date free.  Wilton cars on the Crumlin Road came up trumps and a ‘ princess limousine ‘ was duly booked. A call to Ormo bakery on the Ormeau Road guaranteed that a cake would be delivered to the hotel on the day before the wedding.

Flat hunting was also a priority. We wanted something unfurnished and I was lucky after scanning the Belfast Telegraph night after night to find a suitable ground floor flat in Wolseley Street. For £28 a month we would get one bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. There was, at that stage, no mention of the sitting tenants that inhabited our new home. But we learned to live with them –mice! The only piece of furniture we had was a bed ( we had our priorities right ). It had been standing in the hall of my flat and as soon as the deal was done it was carried by four male friends from Fitzroy Avenue to Wolseley street.  Gordon was getting his strength back and it looked as if nothing could stop us now.

In 1970 I had to resign from my job in the Civil Service and reapply for it again. I had about 10 days from resigning to the wedding day so on my leaving day a party was held in a local hostelry. I had been on antibiotics for some infection or other and didn’t realise that drink and the pills don’t mix. I woke up the next morning with yellow eyes, sick as a dog and my parents arrived to take me home. Jaundice was the diagnosis!!! Bed rest was recommended.  The wedding was once again in jeopardy.image  Panis Angelicus

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