Love is in the air for couple four decades on

Jim Leech and Mary Fitzgerald, both of Austerfield are all smiles as Jim puts an engagement ring on Mary's finger after 40 years apart. Picture: Andrew Roe
Jim Leech and Mary Fitzgerald, both of Austerfield are all smiles as Jim puts an engagement ring on Mary's finger after 40 years apart. Picture: Andrew Roe

IRISH eyes are smiling as a couple who fell in love in the 70s are finally getting married in Doncaster over 40 years later.

Mary Fitzgerald and Jim Leech fell for each other after she threw a wet tea towel at him in the youth club kitchen - an unconventional beginning perhaps, but for the couple who grew up 600 yards away from each other, the magic is obviously still there.

Mary, 56, who never married and now lives in Austerfield, said: “We’d bumped into each other over the years at friends’ weddings and things like that, but each time it was literally for a few minutes.

“My friends always said I should get in touch with Jim, but I didn’t because it had been so long since we last met.

The couple, originally from Dublin, separated because Mary moved to England for work but, as Jim was in the Army, he was unable to follow her across the water.

Jim, 56, said: “I always thought about her but you just get on with life don’t you?”

The couple were finally reunited because of a mutual friend’s funeral last year.

“Jim thought I’d be there - in fact he rang my brother for my telephone number because I had not been to the funeral,” Mary said. “When he rang me it was astonishing, a real voice from the past, we talked for about two hours and it was like the years slipped away.”

The couple met up again two weeks later.

“I recognised him instantly, it was the same old Jim just greyer and heavier,” Mary added.

“I tried ignoring my feelings but that only lasted about two days.”

“I didn’t come over to England with any preconceptions, but the magic was just still there,” Jim said. “What I couldn’t believe was her hair. She used to have the most beautiful long hair. One of the first things I asked her was where it went. It made no difference though - I certainly still fancied her.”

The couple continued to see each other before Jim decided to take the plunge.

“When I got to the restaurant I knew Jim was up something because I could see him opening a bottle of champagne,” Mary said. “The next thing I knew he was down on one knee with a glass of champagne in one hand and a ring in the other - how could you say no!”

The twosome expect to tie the knot in the spring.

“It’s 40 years this year since we first started going out, so we must have something special,” Jim said. “We still finish each other’s sentences, there’s something magic there.”