'We just lived and loved' say Streamstown couple celebrating 60 years
In the kitchen at home in Ballinamill, Streamstown, where their marriage began 60 years ago, Matt and Tricia Elliffe, explain how they got married in Boher Church on September 24 in 1962, on Matt’s birthday.
Matt, who celebrated his 86th birthday on Saturday, and Tricia who turned 80 recently, talk of life starting out as a young couple, happy years raising five children, who are all “married and gone their own way now”, and the joy of seeing their 10 grandchildren grow.
How did you meet?
“We met down in Boher Hall, that was the first time we went out together,” begins Tricia, only to be interrupted by Matt; “No it wasn’t.”
“It was,” says Tricia, “No,” interrupts Matt again. “The first time we met together was on the bridge of Jamestown with Joe McCormack. That was our first meeting,” he explains.
“I had an aul car, an Austin A35. We headed for the Roseland, the ballroom in Moate... Joe Dolan, Ray Lynam, Brendan Boyer and The Hucklebuck, Brendan Shine, they were all on the go that time,” he adds.
Here, Matt and Tricia’s eldest daughter Linda explains how her parents were “mighty” dancers.
“Waltzing, jiving, they never left the floor,” she says.
“I wasn’t very big into the jiving, I wasn’t any good at it,” admits Tricia.
“Indeed you were,” says Matt, “Don’t be running yourself down. We arranged a second date then, I said that I’d be at the dance in Boher on Friday night.
“I was 18 at the time, and Matt was 24,” continues Tricia, who was working in the Royal Hotel in Athlone at the time, while Matt had a job with the Board of Works.
“We were married two years after that, on Matt’s birthday. We had a reception in the Royal Hotel and we went on honeymoon to Dublin for four or five days, touring around. We came back here then, we had bought this little house.
“This is where we’ve been since day one, it was small and dilapidated but we did it up over the years,” she explains.
“It cost 400 pound at the time,” explains Matt, “with water and light and two acres of land. That was big money, it was hard got.”
What was life like for a young couple starting out 60 years ago?
“We thought it was great,” says Tricia. “We didn’t have a lot but we made do with what we had. Everyone was the same those times.”
“The Board of Works was a government job,” adds Matt. “Six pounds 14 a week, that was top wages, if you were working with anybody else you wouldn’t get that kind of money.
“We built up the home and looked after the children. We had five children Linda, Martin, Maura, Aidan and Matthew. We didn’t go out much after that,” says Tricia.
“We just lived and loved,” adds Matt. “It was a simple life.”
“We had a happy life,” continues Tricia. “We always had enough to eat, and a roof over our heads. I was involved in the ICA, and in school meetings, and that was my social outlet.”
Matt’s interests lay in old tractors and machinery, and he has his own workshop where he’s “tinkering away the whole time”.
“There was very little to be got that time, do you see, after the war,” says Matt. “You had all your own food in the garden – vegetables, spuds, cabbages, turnips, and the cow for milk.
“But you’d very rarely go into town, that would be a big occasion,” interjects Tricia.
“We always kept the few cattle and things like that, if you sold some, you’d have a few pound to go and get clothes. Otherwise I’d make a lot of clothes for the children myself when they were young.
“The first big event in our lives with the shopping was when McHughs opened the supermarket in Mullingar,” she adds. “I didn’t go in because I had two small kids, but I’d write out a list and he’d go in a do the shopping.”
“That was the first supermarket that ever opened in Mullingar, McHughs Supermarket,” explains Matt. “But we had our own milk, and a sow that had piglets and once a year and we’d sell them for the Christmas.”
“And I reared turkeys too, and sold them at Christmas for the Christmas money,” adds Tricia. “I’d always send a couple of turkeys over to my two sisters, who were living in England. And I still do all the baking, brown bread, apple tarts, sponges.
“You’d never think of going to the shop for bread, you might buy a sliced pan but all the rest would be done here at home.
“Times were hard but they’re no harder than they are now. We were able to pay for this house, we had no mortgage, we had no debt.”
“It was easier in that sense than it is today,” says Matt. “There wasn’t as much pressure on us as there is on young people today. There was no big expense on you at all, they were simpler times. It’s all go now with people and both parents have to work.
“We didn’t have a television for a long time, we had a transistor radio, but we were one of the first to get a television,” adds Tricia. “We were thrifty – you had to be.
“In those times, you might hear of only two murders in a year, now it’s every night on the news,” adds Matt. “The country was a lot more peaceful and safe. You could let the children out on the bikes, you’d have no worry about neighbours or robbers or anything like that. You could go to bed and leave the door open.
“People had more time for each other then too,” continues Tricia. “They’d come in for a chat, or ramble up at night, or if they were going to the shop they’d pull up to see if you wanted anything.”
“After we got married it was easy to get through life, now, even with two pensions coming in, it can be hard to keep going,” says Matt. “You had your money every week that time because you were fit and healthy, and plenty of work.”
“And of course you’d never miss Mass,” adds Tricia.
“And we were always working on the house. This house has been extended and altered; when we bought the cottage first it was only the size of that room. The original structure is well over 100 years old.”
The couple plan to visit Tricia’s sisters in England instead of having a party to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. And, when asked what the secret is to a long and happy marriage, is, Tricia says: “It’s the love of your kids, that was my outlook on life the whole time, to make sure they had whatever we could afford to give them.
“We had five children, who each got married, and that makes 10, and now we have 10 grandchildren – sure you couldn’t be having parties!”