Lockdown wedding after Cupid struck at Larne retreat centre

Drumalis Retreat Centre provided the starting point for a romance that has culminated in a lockdown wedding for a Larne couple.

Henry O’Loan and Clare Gilmore celebrated their marriage last month in front of a select number of family and friends.

“Despite the limitations imposed by lockdown I followed the desire of my heart and popped the question four months ago,” says Henry who grew up in a farm in Glenravel, Ballymena.

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Both members of St Vincent de Paul, they met while participating in an adult faith development course in Drumalis back in 2008.

Henry and Clare O’Loan.

Henry says: “I was struck by her breadth of knowledge and considerate approach to others.”

Clare, who is originally from the Ards Peninsula, near Kircubbin, had left Northern Ireland to study at university in Dublin. Twelve years later she returned noticing Henry way back on the first day they met at the development course.

When Clare came to his parish to help run a youth group, Henry’s sister suggested he teach her to dance. Their friendship developed over salsa classes but Henry attributes the nuns in Drumalis as helping Cupid as they often tried, with other friends, to match make the couple. They enjoyed each other’s company at SVP Christmas galas, salsa balls and nights out at the cinema.

“Our first date took place in Drumalis, and Clare reminds me I ended up being over an hour late. When I eventually turned up to see Clare, I explained I had made a visit to someone who rang St Vincent de Paul for help and she was understanding as she too is a member of the Society. It was a relief that she was willing to put others before us, as the work of SVP is very important.”

Clare says: “Although we entered a relationship two years ago, when we’re asked how long we’ve been together, I think the answer is really 12 years because that’s when the embers first began and God set in motion that we would connect.

“It is the depth of conversation and sharing of life’s meaning in those in between years that have made our relationship as strong and as deep as it is now.

“The influence of Fr Perry Gildea, a Vincentian friend, has been keen in our development and growth both as individuals and as a couple. His sharing his outlook on life and the role faith has to play in making the world a better place is a big part of who we are as a couple and how we want to be in our local community.”

Currently living in Larne, animal loving Henry and his wife Clare, who is a personal secretary in Braid Valley Hospital, plan to move back to Glenravel soon to pursue their love of farming and enjoy the lambing season.


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