A new month brings with it, the return of our Words of Wisdom feature and we've decided to take a different approach on it given the current times we’re living in. We had a quick socially distanced catch up with Mid Ulster’s very own Artie and Mary Cassidy who have given their experience of lockdown. Artie and Mary are both in their early 70’s and celebrated 44 years of marriage yesterday! They met at a dance in the 1970s and since then, have gone on to have six children and four grandchildren.

In his early 20s, Artie spent four years working and travelling around Australia. When he returned home he had plans to travel to Canada but Mary caught his eye instead and they later married and settled in Newbridge, Co Derry. Artie worked hard all his life as a joiner and retired a few years ago after having a stroke.

Mary has a keen interest in traditional Irish music and culture. She plays an active role in her local community and is a former chairwoman of Newbridge Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. During her time in this role, Mary was instrumental in organising events for local community and charity fundraisers.

Artie and Mary on their wedding day, 44 years ago

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Artie: I’m 72 years of age and I come from a family of 12 children. I like reading about history, listening to music and horse racing. I’m an avid follower of the GAA and I used to be the treasurer for my local club.

Mary: I’m very family orientated. I have four sisters, eight brothers, six children and four grandchildren and countless nieces and nephews, so before lockdown I always had plenty of houses to visit.

What have you missed the most during lockdown?

A: The grandchildren and getting out and about and seeing people for a chat. I would have went to my local pub for a pint probably every other weekend so I’ve missed the social aspect of that.

M: Hugs from the grandchildren.They’re all aged seven and under so they’ve grown up a lot these past few months. It’s been a lonely few months not getting out and about to the shops. Sadly, my much beloved sister passed away in February so not being able to visit her grave at the beginning of lockdown was tough.

What have you been doing to fill your day?

M: I’ve been kept busy with baking. I used to bake a lot more years ago but got out of the way of it so getting stuck back in has been a good distraction. I’ll often bake fresh wheatens and fruit loaves that Artie and I enjoy with our tea. I’ve also swapped some recipes with family members and recently made a walnut and date loaf which went down a treat.

The easing of some of the restrictions meant I was able to visit my local chapel and arrange the flowers for the altar for the month of June – something I’ve done for many years.

A: We live in the countryside with a large garden to roam around. We’ve been fortunate with the weather over the past few months so I’ve enjoyed going for walks or simply sitting and enjoying the sunshine. I enjoyed sampling Mary’s baking too.

How has technology helped you stay in contact?

A: I wouldn’t use an awful lot of technology so our children had to give us a hand getting things set up. Before lock down we never would have used video calling, but it was a great way to keep in touch and see people’s faces. We even attended a 50th birthday party via zoom – it was great craic.

M: I’ve a smartphone and would use WhatsApp to keep in touch with people. I’m in different WhatsApp groups with my daughters and nieces so they were great for keeping in touch and sharing information.

It was especially great when my daughters would send videos of the grandchildren. We have twin granddaughters who learned to walk over lockdown and it was a joy to have that captured on video. Our other two granddaughters celebrated their birthdays during lockdown so their parties were somewhat different compared to other years.

Have you gained much support from your local community?

M: Yes. We come from a small area in Mid Ulster called Newbridge and, as always, there was great community support. Our local shop delivered the paper every morning and also provided a delivery service. Our parish also streamed their mass service via their webcam.

A: We didn’t need to rely too heavily on community support because we have a large family but we knew it was there if we needed it.

What are you looking forward to most when social distancing guidelines start to ease?

A: All sports being back on the TV. Especially GAA and horse racing. I know they’re showing replays at the moment but it’s just not the same.

M: We both come from big families so we’re looking forward to getting out and about and seeing everyone as well as having visitors to our house. We’re not used to the place being this quiet!

Artie and Mary enjoyed socialising before lockdown was implemented

Any lasting words of wisdom for our readers?

A: Look after yourselves and your loved ones.

M: Keep safe and keep well.

Disclaimer: Artie and Mary are the parents of COPNI’s Communications and Engagement Manager.

Would you like to take part in our words of wisdom interview? Or do you know an inspirational older person(s) who is young at heart and defies the stereotype of an older person? Does your Granny love to surf? Or maybe you have a Grandad mad for skydiving? Perhaps your older parents are still working or are selfless volunteers continuing to make a difference to their community. If you know someone who fits the bill and who would be happy to be interviewed, we’d love to hear from you.

Get in touch by emailing communications@copni.org