Joe and Netta with, at back from left, Cathal, Ronan, Mark, Ciarán, Noel and Aaron, and in front, daughter Majella. Missing from photo: Joseph.

Netta and Joe’s Golden Day

When student nurse Netta Butler and farmer Joe Murphy met in Boher Hall more than a half century ago, there was one significant obstacle in the path of their romance: the Irish Sea.

While the two grew up only five or six miles apart in Ballymore, Netta was at the time living in England, where she was undertaking her nursing training.

What followed was a lot of letter-writing and a lot of travel until Netta qualified and found a job in Dublin, working at St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park, and on June 5 1972, the two were wed.

Last week, in the company of their six of their seven sons and their daughter, Joe and Netta Murphy marked the 50th anniversary of that occasion with a Mass of Thanksgiving in their home, concelebrated by Fr Oliver Devine and Fr Godwin Atede, and a celebratory meal at Browne’s on The Green in Tyrrellspass.

Joe and Netta on their wedding day in 1972.

“We got married in Ballymore church; Fr Christy King married us,” recalls Netta. The reception was held in The Grand Hotel in Moate and the newly-weds spent their honeymoon in Galway.

The couple went on to have a family of eight and all bar two live in the area. Son Cathal, who works in agriculture in Australia, came home for the golden wedding anniversary, and Joseph, who competes at international level in three-day eventing, and who represented Ireland at the London Olympics, lives in County Down. Mark is the greenkeeper at Tullamore Golf Course ; Noel is involved in a haulage company; Ciarán is a horse trainer, based at Charlestown Stud, Aaron works alongside him; Ronan is an electrician and only daughter Majella (Rigney) a legal secretary.

Netta and Joe are delighted also to be grandparents to nine children. What would the couple say is the key to a happy marriage? Good communication, says Netta.

“Always be yourselves – and it’s good to have a bit of faith, both in God and each other.”

Joe and Netta.

Putting a final gloss on what was a lovely weekend for the family was the fact that Ciaran Murphy scored a success at Kilbeggan on Sunday. Horse Jack Hackett, owned and bred by Sean Reilly, justified his favourite tag in the two and a half-mile handicap chase, winning by five and a half lengths.