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Will set Edna's heart racing with very watery chat-up line at 1956 Circuit of Ireland Rally

By Laura Abernethy

Published 06/04/2016

Will Wilson and wife Edna
Will Wilson and wife Edna
Edna in her rally car
Edna (lefts) with her sister Iris in 1952

As the Circuit of Ireland Rally celebrates its 85th year, one Co Down couple are marking their own milestone after a 55-year marriage started with the chat-up line: "Would you like your windscreen washed?"

Will Wilson met his wife Edna in 1956 when they were both competing in a test in the west of Ireland for the Circuit.

Will and his friend Dr W D Thornton, both in their 20s and living in Newcastle, CoDown, entered an MG TC in the event.

Mr Wilson said: "There was a lot of interest in the rally in the area and we decided to give it a go."

The rally had a very different format back then. Competitors drove tests rather than closed road stages, and while parked up waiting to tackle the test Dr Thornton spotted two young women in the next car.

He asked Will if he knew either of them; when Will said he didn't, he told them he needed to find a reason to chat to them.

Back in those post-war days many cars didn't have window washers, so Mr Wilson grabbed the damp sponge they carried in a bag, washed their own windscreen then offered to do the same for the MG TD driven by the girls.

Mr Wilson said: "We were intrigued by the two girls in the car, so I had to do some quick thinking. I had a sponge and plastic bag of water, walked over to the car and asked: 'Would you like your windscreen washed?' They agreed and I washed their windscreen profusely."

They were were sisters Edna and Iris Andrews, whose family owned Andrews Motorcycles in Belfast.

Mr Wilson said: "They had competed on the Circuit of Ireland before and were very capable of servicing the car themselves throughout the rally, and had previously won the Ladies' Award for their efforts."

After his act of bravado a friendship formed between the two competing crews. Edna and Will kept in touch and she joined the Mourne Motor Club, where Will was a member. A few years later Will asked Edna, now both in their 80s, to become his wife, and they married on April 5, 1961.

The couple celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary yesterday in their home town of Newcastle, Co Down, after a special holiday in Abu Dhabi. They have three children: Caroline, Janette and William, and also have eight grandchildren - seven boys and one girl.

With the Circuit of Ireland Rally having such an impact on their relationship, Will and Edna passed their interest on to the next generation - their daughter Caroline was a marshal at the event for several years.

The couple have long since given up rallying, but Mr Wilson admitted: "We still have a great interest in cars."

He became a keen sailor and is now the president of Newcastle Lifeboat Station, and Edna enjoys golf and is past captain and president of Royal County Down Ladies' Golf Club.

The rally, which is the third oldest in the world, will celebrate its 85th year as it kicks off tomorrow night. It runs until Saturday across Co Antrim, Co Down and Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph

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