Reunited with first love

-A true story of two love birds who can't let either go

When it comes to love songs, nobody sings better than Jimmy and Mary. When it comes to love with first date, this Irish couple will keep you awake all night listening to their love story. There is something in their hearts that has remained a mystery to Irish TV.

The love story began at a Cork oil refinery. Jimmy took a quick look at the shy blue-eyed girl in the canteen. That was the beginning of endless love which no human was able to stop despite rough path.

Back together: The smitten pair are inseparable

Jimmy Hayes could never forget his first love.

Mary Kelligar was sweet 16, he was 18 and they began courting after falling for each other in the works canteen. While everybody was busy working, the two love birds were busy with themselves.

Then, five years later, a lovers’ tiff and a misunderstanding made Jimmy and Mary go their separate ways, each marrying and raising families of their own.

But there was something about Mary that kept her in Jimmy’s heart for more than half a century. And when he was widowed 14 years ago he began spending more time back in their Irish homeland.

Sheron Boyle MediaJimmy Hayes and Mary Lloyd as teenagers

Early days: Jimmy Hayes and Mary Lloyd as teenagers





He’d always kept Mary’s teenage love letters and poems and treasured the scrap of paper where she’d scribbled her phone number when he first asked her out.

Then two years ago, Jimmy was having a meal in a local pub when a cousin handed him another piece of paper with a telephone number on it... and, to his amazement, the name Mary.

It turned out she had been widowed too.

And when her son Andrew, a teacher, discovered that one of his colleagues had relatives in Jimmy’s home town of Mitchels­town, Co Cork, he asked if they could track down Jimmy Hayes.

He knew that his mum had never stopped thinking about her first love either. And so, 51 years after their split, Jimmy and Mary were reunited – and fell in love all over again.


Sheron Boyle MediLove letters and poems sent by Mary Lloyd to her first love Jimmy Hayes
Romantic: Love letters and poems sent by Mary Lloyd to Jimmy


“My prayers were answered,” says Jimmy, 75, who lives in Oxford. “I couldn’t believe it when I was handed that note. But it was our destiny to meet again We are back in love... and it’s lovely.”

Mary, 73, a grandmother with a family in Liverpool, adds: “It’s just amazing. All that time Jimmy was wondering about me I was thinking of him too.

"And every year on his birthday, February 14, I thought about my lost Val­­en­­tine. Now I’ve found him and I can’t believe we have another chance at this time in our lives.”

The couple’s love story began in 1957 at a Cork oil refinery. Welder Jimmy took a shine to the shy blue-eyed brunette who manned the till in the canteen.

He recalls: “When the siren went off to announce lunch I’d race to the canteen hoping for a glimpse of Mary. The other lads would tease me, saying she took a shine to me because she always gave me an extra apple.” His friends were right, too.

“I was very shy and would always blush when I served Jimmy,” she explains. “But I thought he was so handsome and very easy to get on with.”

Jimmy plucked up courage to ask Mary out for a walk on nearby East Ferry beach.

“That was our first date – an afternoon stroll to the sands. We began courting and went to dances and the cinema. We shared kisses and held hands. It was all very innocent then – and we fell in love.


Sheron Boyle MediJimmy Hayes and Mary Lloyd as teenagers
Picnic: Jimmy and Mary soaking up the sun


“We loved our walks on the beach. We’d look at the boats out at sea and wonder where they were bound, talk about the future and where it might take us.”

Like many young Irish, Jimmy had to leave home to find work in England. In 1959 he moved to Oxford but he wrote weekly love letters to Mary and, with occasional phone calls, their relationship was still strong.

Mary moved to Liverpool in 1962 to work in her aunt’s hotel and on one visit Jimmy announced: “Consider yourself engaged.”

“I was a bit full of myself back then,” he says. “I wanted her to know she was my girl and I saw our future together. I planned to propose properly once I’d bought a ring.

“But it was hard having a long-distance relationship. If we had a tiff it always seemed bigger than it should have been.

“On my next visit I saw a guy in the hotel paying her a lot of attention. I was jealous and bid her a frosty goodbye. Now I realise she was just doing her job, talking with a customer. But I got in a huff.”


Sheron Boyle MediJimmy Hayes and Mary Lloyd reunited after 54 years apart
Heartwarming: Jimmy Hayes and Mary Lloyd reunited after 54 years apart


Mary says: “He rang me the next day and said, ‘Don’t you want me any more?’ I was annoyed so I cut my nose off to spite my face and said, ‘No’. But I didn’t mean it and never thought it would help finish us.”

But that’s what it did. Jimmy was devastated, but tried to get on with his life.

“I dated a girl but it wasn’t the same so I sent Mary a letter saying, ‘I’ve tried to forget you but I can’t’.

“I thought when we were back in Cork for Christmas we’d get back together. I went to our favourite dance hall and spotted Mary immediately... walking off the floor with a fella. So I walked out. I got the wrong end of the stick. I gave up too easily.”

“I was just dancing with a man I knew,” says Mary. “I wasn’t dating him. I was really hoping Jimmy would be there, but I never saw him that night.”

And so they went their separate ways. Jimmy married in 1967 and had three children before divorcing in 1995. He wed again in 2001 but his new wife died just four months later. Meanwhile, Mary had amarried in 1964. She had five children and her husband died in November 2009.

“My children knew I had a first love before their dad,” she says. “I thought about Jimmy a lot. When I look back over the years, I realise the embers of my love for him never stopped burning. I just boxed them away.”

On holidays back in Ireland Jimmy would ask locals for news of Mary.

“I always made a point of visiting our beach at East Ferry, walking along wondering where she was,” he says. “Many times I walked up the lane to her old home. I asked the folk who lived there if they knew her, but they didn’t.

“One night in 2013 I was feeling a bit lonely and as I said my pray­­ers, I asked God, ‘I am old now. Please send me a companion for these years of my life, someone like Mary.’ ”

Just six weeks later he was handed that fateful note in the pub. Mary explains: “My son Andrew was chatting with a colleague who had relations in Mitchelstown. He knew about Jimmy, wondered if he was still alive, so asked her to find out.

“It turned out her relative did know Jimmy and said he went home every year. I was shocked but delighted and agreed for him to text the lady my contact details.”

It was two weeks later back at home that Jimmy nervously picked up the phone and rang. But Mary wasn’t in. “I left a message and my phone num­­ber and sat quietly for an hour or so.” he says.

“Then the phone rang. I was so excited! Mary’s voice came on saying ‘Jimmy, is that you?’ and I said ‘Yes’. ‘Is it really you?’ she said and I said, ‘Yes, it is.’

“But she had to ask ‘a third time before she believed it!

“I said ‘It IS Mary... now how are you doing?’”

After 51 years of silence Mary and Jimmy chatted and laughed for two hours – and the years melted away.

They called each other every evening for three weeks before Jimmy travelled by coach to Liverpool.

“We recognised each other straight away,” he says. “It was a shock to both of us. We were young when we last saw each other and now we are old.”

After a friendly kiss on the cheek, they went for lunch and talked through their misunderstandings.

“I felt a right idiot when Mary told me the truth, but we were young and headstrong,” says Jimmy.

Mary smiles: “I feel young again now... I’m so at ease with him.”

The couple have now visited each other’s homes and met their families.

Mary says: “We have taken it steady, respectful to our late spouses and children.”

Then, a few months ago they bought a house together in the place where they fell in love and are preparing to move back.

“It’s near East Ferry beach,” says Jimmy. “That’s where it started and that’s where we will finish our days - together.”

-Story earlier published by

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