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Married in Sydney: couple who first met at an Ulster college half a century ago

By Victor Gordon

Seven of their nine grandchildren were there. They were 10,000 miles from home. It was 51 years after they met.

And the ceremony was on board a river cruiser on Sydney's Nepean River.

But other than that, the wedding of Ulster couple Michael Spathaky and Marian Chamber was nothing out of the ordinary.

As they said "I do" among 55 family and friends, Michael and Marian reflected on two lives that intertwined at Portadown College back in the 50s, and on paths that crossed again at the turn of the millennium after their respective spouses had passed away.

They were both in their teens when they became an item at Portadown College, but then Michael's family moved to England and the young lovers lost touch.

Michael became a teacher and married Diana, while Marian joined the Civil Services, married Sammy and emigrated to Australia.

They were literally half a world apart.

However, when tragedy struck and Sammy died from a brain tumour in Oz, Marian contacted the Spathakys via website Friends Reunited. She then visited Michael and Diana in England and the friendships were rekindled.

But then Diana died, also from a brain tumour, and Michael and Marian's friendship grew into a romance again and the marriage on board The Penrith Platypus was planned. Marian's son Gary gave her away, and also there were daughters Dawn, Gillian and families.

Michael's son John was best man, but daughter Jane and family from England couldn't make it, as they'd been in Oz to see their father earlier in the year, helping to arrange the wedding.

"It was a wonderful day," Marian told the Belfast Telegraph as they settled into their new Australian home.

"It's a day I'll never forget, especially as we had several Ulster immigrants there - people with whom we've made real friends over the years.

"We plan to spend six months of each year in Oz and six in England. It certainly has been a rollercoaster - we can't believe we've finally married after 50 years."

Belfast Telegraph


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