Our wedding story: from Texas tourist to Kerry honeymmon
A few years ago, Susan Baughman (an American traveller) met an Irishman while volunteering in Spain. His words "why not use the apartment behind our house in County Wicklow as your home base in Ireland?' proved to be quite the life-changing phrase! What started out as a 5 week off-the-cuff /spur-of-the-moment tour of Ireland, became a prelude to a wedding!
While circling Ireland, heading towards Achill Island (people she met on day 2 said "come visit us there!), susan found herself in Killarney, County Kerry - staying a few days at Neptune's Hostel and enjoying the beauty of County Kerry. One day, while waiting for a Ring of Kerry bus tour to start, she began chatting up a few other hostel guests; no names exchanged, no world-changing topics discussed. A few days later, Juliette at Neptune's said "were you talking to a guy on a bicycle the other day?" when Susan said yes, Julliette said "he left his phone # for you!" "when Susan said "whoa! the cute guy?" Juliette laughed and said "call me when you plan the wedding!"
So of course - they did!
The message said "John Layden, teacher" and had an English phone number. After a few unsuccessful attempts ("I didn't know anyone in Texas!" said John, who saw the caller i.d. on the phone) they connected, and after many nice conversations they scheduled a first date: a trip to thr Saint Leger stakes in Doncaster, England, where a horse named after John's late father was running. John, an Englishman with a house in Ireland, was a teacher of Ancient Greek & Latin as well as Assistant Housemaster at Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire, and was already back at school for the Fall term by this time. The first date was a challenge: Susan was carrying a backpack, and needed to dress fancy for Owners & Trainers tickets! Thanks to the Couchsurfing website, a new friend in Doncasrer picked her up at the station, let her change in his daughter's room, dropped her at the racecourse, held on to the backpack while she was at the races, and even picked them up at the end of the day to return them to the train station!
So began a whirlwind romance with visits to The Curragh, Leopardstown, Thirsk, Killarney Races, Listowell -- are you picking up a theme here? Not only did two over-50 travelers meet at a hostel, but they both love horseracing, bicycle riding, camping AND dressing up, and travel! On New Years Eve 2014 they had a special time at the beautiful Malton Hotel in Killarney, where John proposed.
Susan and John flew to Williamsburg in April to get married near Susan's 91 year old mother. John's brother Keith Layden, best man, and Keith's wife Julie flew in from Sheffield???? and his dear friend Phyl Melling of Ampleforth made the trans-Atlantic journey, too. Susan's sisters were there (Sally Baughman from Wyoming/Maine, Trish Allam from Virginia, and Nancy Csuti from Colorado) as well as friends and family as far away as Texas.
Susan's dress was a gift from her Maid of Honor who, upon discovering Susan hadn't gotten a wedding dress a mere 4 weeks before the ceremony, bought one, and mailed it to Virginia "just in case." It fit perfectly and looked fantastic! The ceremony was held at Williamsburg Landing retirement community, and catered by the wonderul folks there who were excited to be hosting a wedding! Trish Allam picked the food, the flowers, the cake - all Susan & John had to do was show up!
Susan was walked down the aisle by her brother-in-law Jim Allam - who welcomed John into the extended O'Donnell-Baughman family. After a reception luncheon, many of the crowd went off to the Williamsburg Winery for more fun - why end a good day early?
As John said during the ceremony "i may not be the first englishman to surrender on these shores of virginia, but rather than a surrender of war, mine is a surrender of the heart!
They honeymooned in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and will make thei home in a converted 1880's water tower, left over from the first trans-Atlantic cable station in Waterville, County Kerry. Susan coninues the lengthy process of getting Irish citizenship: her grandparents were born in Ireland and emmigrated to New York in 1911. Susan loves County Kerry, and shares her photos of the area on Today in Ireland on Facebook. John recently retired, and is looking forward to living in Ireland full time, learning the ukulele, and spending the rest of his life being happily married to Susan. Well, at least when she gets back to Ireland: she broke her shpoulder in a fall last week in the USA....