Undeterred by the latest lockdown, Henry O’Loan and Clare Gilmore celebrated their wedding on January 6 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 on a farm in Glenravel, Ballymena.
After two years of courtship, Henry said he “found it became increasingly difficult to spend time away from Clare” as he realised they shared so much in common and he could not bear the thought of another lockdown without her by his side.
Both members of St Vincent de Paul, Henry and Clare met while participating in an adult faith development course in Drumalis Retreat Centre in Larne back in 2008.
Veterinary surgeon Henry says he first noticed Clare’s tattoos and piercings but while facilitating a small group on the course he got to know her better and 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 north, noticing Henry way back on the first day they met at the development course in 2008, but said: “I just assumed he was already taken so thought no more of it.”
Having marked her as ‘one to watch’ 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 matchmake the couple.
They enjoyed each other’s company at SVP Christmas galas, Salsa balls and nights out at QFT.
As their friendship developed, Henry and Clare enjoyed weekends in Dublin and Donegal and a trip to Norway for Clare’s birthday.
After returning from Norway, Henry says he ‘bit the bullet’ and asked Clare if they could enter a romantic relationship.
He said: “It was a risk, if it worked – wonderful, if it didn’t – then would it ruin the fabulous friendship we had built?
“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, now that the farmer has found a wife, 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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