A WEDDING crasher by the name of Desmond forced a County Limerick bride to abandon the church of her dreams just two hours before she was due to say “I do”.
Shelly Conway from Kilmallock was due to walk down the aisle of the idyllic Oratory of St Finbarr in Gougane Barra, Cork at 2pm last Saturday but the impact of Storm Desmond resulted in a last minute change of plan.
“We went up there with the kids one day and we were mad about it – fell in love with it and said that’s definitely where we are getting married, but it never happened,” Shelly told the Leader this week.
The intimate chapel, which is built on an island in Gougane Barra Lake and is connected to the mainland by a causeway, is one of the most popular churches for weddings with many couples booking the location years in advance.
While Shelly was slipping into her beautiful, cap-sleeved gown, and putting the finishing touches to her hair and makeup, flood water was creeping up to front door of the oratory.
Shelly, who booked the oratory 10 months in advance, suspected that something was wrong at noon on Saturday when the hotel manager at Castle Hotel in Macroom kept popping in and out to her room asking her if she had her phone on her and if she had reception.
“I don’t know if she was waiting for the priest to ring to tell me or if they were trying to decide who was going to tell me.
“I said, ‘Do you want me for something’ and she said, ‘There is a bit of bad news’. She said, ‘I’m waiting to see if there is any hope’ but there was no hope, it was too dangerous.”
There were three impassable areas on the local road and one was right outside Gougane Barra.
“There is only a footpath going into the church and that was all lake as well - there was no footpath to be seen. The water was after coming right over - it was flooded up past the door really,” said Shelly, who is a native of Riverview, Kilmallock and now lives in Freemount, County Cork.
“The florist and the people from the church were trying to go there. The lady from the oratory actually rang and said, ‘You just couldn’t get married there’. It was flooded right up to the door. She said, ‘You couldn’t tell what was footpath and what was lake’.”
While Shelly was crestfallen, she didn’t let on.
“Once I could marry him, I didn’t mind,” she smiled of her husband Jason O’Flynn who hails from Shanakiel in Cork.
The couple have been going out for 14 years and have two daughters Emma, 7, and Lauren, 3. Both were flowergirls on the big day.
“All I kept asking was, ‘Can I get married?’ That’s all I was worried about.”
The next step was finding another church and making the 120 invited guests aware of the change of venue. So just how did they salvage the big day?
“The priest said, ‘You’ll be able to get married alright, it just won’t be in Gougane Barra’ and I said, ‘That’s fine’.”
The couple had changed their rehearsal date at Gougane Barra which meant they did the run through in Macroom Church instead, “and the funny thing is that we actually ended up getting married there”.
Shelly’s mum, Geraldine Conway, got straight down to business and rang as many guests as she could, as did Shelly’s bridesmaids Lorraine O’Sullivan, Tara McCann and Liz O’Mahony.
The word was also sent out via Facebook.
“It was good because when I got to the church they were all there.”
Shelly arrived at Macroom Church a traditional 10 minutes late and was walked down the aisle by her proud father Larry at 2.10pm. She was greeted by chief celebrant Fr Joe O’Mahony of Macroom Parish and the love of her life, Jason O’Flynn.
“I married him and as I said if we got married in a field it would have made no difference whatsoever,” she smiled.
“As bad as the weather was, it was a brilliant day - absolutely brilliant.”
To complete the wedding album the photographer wants the couple to return to Gougane Barra over the next fortnight to do a photoshoot - Shelly in her gorgeous gown and Jason in his smart suit.
“I’ll do it but, knowing my luck, there’ll be another storm,” joked Shelly.