Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman weds her 90-year-old beau

By Claire McNeilly

At first, it sounds like a typical 'boy meets girl' love story. Larne woman Hester met the man who is now her husband on a bus after he politely asked her if the seat next to her was taken.

The pair got talking, fell in love almost immediately - and a year later were married.

But this is no ordinary romance because Hester (née Crawford) is 88 years old and her new Kiwi husband, John Blackler, has just turned 90.

Their only regret is that they did not meet each other sooner. After all, both had lived in Glengollan retirement village in Australia for two decades.

"I was sitting on the bus by myself and John came up and asked, 'Is this seat taken?'" Hester said. "We've been together ever since."

Hester, who emigrated to Australia in 1961, and John had never laid eyes on each other before the bus encounter that marked the beginning of a whirlwind romance that was to irrevocably change their lives.

"It came as a bit of a surprise actually because I wasn't expecting anything to happen so quickly," said Hester, whose first husband, Clarrie Parker, passed away in December 2005, aged 83.

The lovestruck couple soon realised they had a lot in common, despite the fact that Hester was from Northern Ireland and John had been raised in New Zealand. They had both grown up on farms, where they learned how to make butter, and had very happy married lives before they lost their respective partners.

Six months later, the couple were walking through a shopping centre together when they passed a jeweller's and decided to take their romance to the next level.

But when it came to popping the question, John admitted any notion of a traditional proposal had to be cast aside. "If I'd got down on one knee, I'd have needed two people to lift me up!" he joked to 7 News Brisbane.

They then picked the engagement ring together and bought two wedding rings then and there. Hester said: "I'd advise anyone in the same situation to go ahead and do it."

The besotted couple tied the knot on a sunny day in the hills of Emerald in Melbourne, surrounded by 20 members of their families.

Both their daughters signed the wedding certificate, and some of the couple's combined 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren were there.

Hester's son, Ed Parker, told this paper her family and friends were thrilled for her.

"After years of loneliness, despite our visits, the marriage has renewed her life and we're all very happy for her," he said.

John, meanwhile, added: "There's no looking back. We want to be together for however long we've got - why not make the most of it?"

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