I am on a week's holiday in Killarney with Caroline and the kids. We are staying at my parents' house - Edgar and Jean Ritchie. I thought I would do a few interviews about their life. This first blog is about their meeting.
Edgar Ritchie went as a medical missionary to Umuahia in eastern Nigeria in 1961. In 1965 twenty-eight year old Jean Kingston arrived as a midwife to the same hospital. Edgar's brother Derek and his wife Joan were praying that romance would blossom between the two.
Paul: Had your paths crossed before you got to know each other in Nigeria?
Jean: Yes. When I went to Wesley College he was the head boy, captain of the rugby and all the rest. He was so highly thought of and I was a raw little girl from west Cork. . . . If someone had told me then that I would end up marrying you [addressing Ed] it would have been like a fairy story. . . . I don't think we would have seen each other after that . . . Apart from seeing him at George Good's valedictory where he [Ed] was also being commissioned for overseas work.
Shortly after Jean arrived in Umuahia Edgar returned to Ireland on furlough. He returned six months later.
Paul: When did you realise that you were going to be more than friends?
Edgar: On the way back from Onitcha [where he had brought Jean to assess the student midwives]. We met an ekpo man [ekpo are a secret men's society - this man would have been dressed fantastically in a mask and headgear]. Jean got out of the car to take photographs and I persuaded her to leave that poor man alone!!! [He considered it unwise and probably dangerous.]
[Jean asked Edgar if he remembered what they talked about in the car]. I explained to Jean that as a missionary who was a single person one had to face the reality one might not marry.
Paul: Edgar, how long was it before you proposed?
Edgar: Shortly afterwards [within weeks].
Paul: Jean, how did Edgar propose?
Jean: He arrived early on a Sunday morning [around 6am]. He knocked on the shutter and invited me up to breakfast. I couldn't go immediately as someone had put rollers in my hair and they were coming back to style it for me. So two to three hours later I arrived at his house to find his cook had gone. I am still waiting for that breakfast! Sitting on the couch he just looked at me and said 'will you marry me?' . . . It came as a big surprise.
Paul: Where did you get married and where did you go on your honeymoon?
Jean: 2nd Jun 1966, on a beautiful sunny day [about a year after she had arrived in Nigeria]. [They were married in Drimoleague, West Cork]. We had one week in Castlegregory and the second week in Amsterdam, breaking our journey back to Nigeria.