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40th Wedding Anniversary
By Mary Blackshire
14, Feb 2002 - 14:20

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On January 27th 1962, Eileen McGreal, Castlebar, married James Holden, Reading, in St Michaels Cathedral, Coimbatore, South India. Reverend Father A Joseph PP officiated. On January 27th 2002, family and friends of the couple met in Reading, England to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary including the mothers of both bride and groom. It was a very joyous occasion as none of us attended the wedding in 1962. We attended Mass in St Anne's Church, Caversham, Reading, that morning where the couple was given a special blessing by Fr A Jones, Fr Tony from His Holiness Pope John Paul 11 and followed with a wonderful lunch and dancing in the Holiday Inn (Old Caversham Bridge Hotel).
Eileen with her wedding dress

Eileen would tell you it was a long hard road getting there, mixed marriages were frowned upon in those days. James (Jim) had left for India in May 1959 to work for Brooke Bond Tea Company as an engineer on a tea plantation in Madurai. Eileen was still a student nurse at the Royal Bershire Hospital in Reading where she had met Jim. They became engaged over the phone and in 1961 Eileen started planning her trip to India to be married. With all the ups and downs, they are still together after 40 years, parents of two children, Nicola and Andrew and grandparents to Neil, Faye and Glen, parents in law to Ian.
Jim, Eileen and Fr Joseph

Eileen's account of the preparations and journey to India. “I was busy packing trunks (one belonging to my grandmother Kate Cummins) packing cases with wedding presents, blankets, bedspreads, radio, cooker, record player, records, clothes, housekeeping book, wedding dress. I even bought my wedding ring. This was all done with the help of the Holdens and Granny with her trunk and suitcases I borrowed and last, but not least, Jim's mother made my wedding dress. I had to find a suitable pattern Vogue 4065, material, headdress, shoes, gloves and ring. I purchased the brocade material at Heelas 15/-shillings (for those of you who are Euro users 1Euro 20cent) a yard or £3 with lining, zip, buttons which were covered with material, a short sleeveless dress with a jacket which was made with loving care. Mrs Holden also made a royal blue dress and my going away outfit was a blue and white two piece with navy shoes and gloves. The veil was short with a comb and flower attached. The shoes were satin high heels. I was able to buy a few new things in sales, dresses, shirts and blouses. I had no idea about climate or what I would need, so I took everything with me, winter clothes as well. I couldn't leave them behind, even my nursing books came with me and all my worldly goods.

Packing was a problem as it was happening in two places, Caversham and Tilehurst. It was all then transported to Liverpool by BRS, all labelled correctly, some for the hold, the rest for the cabin. I had to have smallpox, yellow fever, cholera and typhoid vaccinations at the Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Hammersmith, London, all at different intervals.

The next thing or at least one of the most important things I had to do was to complete the details of arranging a mixed marriage. I first tried St James as I had been resident there the longest but was told that because I resided in Caversham. I would have to consult Fr O’Malley at St Annes. I dealt with Fr Flanagan who had to liaise with Birmingham, Castlebar and South India. But it seemed to work as Jim had to do the same out there and we did get married within a month of my arrival which coincided with the day after India’s Republic Day celebration.

In December1961, hoping I had not forgotten anything, I left Reading having said goodbye to Granny, Aunts in Reading and London. There was nothing left for me to do but return to Castlebar to say goodbye to my family. I acquired a wedding cake (one tier) which Mam had made locally in McNeela’s of Linenhall Street and had been iced by Noreen. This was a big cake to carry along with a suitcase, but it travelled along with me packed with love and care, in my cabin underneath my bed all the way to India over 8000 miles. It survived the journey well apart from a crack in the icing. The last thing my mother gave me was a boxed white missal with her love and blessing. I waited until Dad got home from work or on his way in from his run to say goodbye. The first part of my journey had taken me from Reading via Liverpool/Dublin/Castlebar by train and boat, now my brother Ken would drive me to North Wall in his Ford Prefect. It was Dec 8th a holy day. It was icy on the roads and we stopped off in Longford for a break. I walked the gangplank with my precious cargo. I left the port of Dublin with tears welling up inside me. I sat up all night reviewing what lay ahead, arriving in Liverpool early next morning through the locks and disembarked”

Part 2: Passage to India

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