As couples go, there are few more engaging and unprententious than Joe and Annie Devine.
These are virtues that have come naturally to them over the years, and has undoubtedly led to the substantial successes on both the professional and personal fronts.
Earlier this month, Joe and Annie marked those achievements by way of a double celebration, firstly to recognise their 50th year behind their bar in Lismacaffrey but also to toast their golden wedding anniversary.
Looking dapper and relaxed, the easy going and down-to-earth couple spoke movingly of their ups and downs together when the Leader caught up with them at their home close to the Westmeath border this week.
For Joe, it all started on July 15 1962. That was the day he effectively set out his professional future by purchasing the bar which today still proudly bears his name over its front door.
Recalling his first foray into the trade, Joe remarks on the difference in the prices back then.
“In the first instance prices were so different,” he said. “Sure the pint when I opened here, pints were one and thrupence (around 20c). Young people wouldn’t have a clue about that and whiskey was two and four pence.”
By that stage, Joe had met his future wife, Annie, a qualified nurse stationed in Mullingar, the pair married in October.
Having set up home and with a full-time business to run, the newly named Mrs Devine had a choice to make - either continue her nursing career or turn her hand to pulling pints. In the end, it was a decision that didn’t take much deliberation.
“I had to give it up (nursing),” she said simply, “and then the children started coming.”
In total, Joe and Annie raised six children, four girls and two boys.
Annie’s almost whimsical take on things is refreshing.
“There was only a year between them (children). I don’t know how I did it,” she continued, quietly chuckling to herself.
If events at home were busy, they were matched and in certain instances eclipsed by other day-to-day chores.
Alongside the bar, Joe and Annie gradually added other strings to the family business, from grocery and hardware selling the likes of wallpaper, coal and paraffin oil.
A second establishment in nearby Boherquill was purchased during the 70s, as both husband and wife made their mark on the local business landscape.
As time progressed and economic factors kicked in, Joe and Annie opted to concentrate all of their focus on the bar.
That shift in emphasis and the pair’s likeable, humble approach to business helped deal with the raging effects of recession and emigration during the bleak mid 1980s.
Able to look back with more than a semblance of gratification, Annie is left in little doubt as to how our present day woes compare to those of 30 years earlier.
“I think it is far worse now. The volume of people back then was far different to what it is today,” she asserted.
Interjecting, Joe said trust played a large part in the business’ success during that time.
“I was always honest with my suppliers,” he explained. “I never owed my wholesalers money.”
He goes on to fondly talk of his favoured customers, especially ones that have since passed away.
“Ah there were many,” he grinned. “There was one man I will mention, Paddy Pepper. Now he was a character. Ah sure, he could sing, he could burst into song at any time and had a lovely voice.”
Those memories are ones Joe gets a great deal of personal satisfaction from, you feel. Annie is just as thankful. She still works two days a week alongside her children, all of whom lend a hand and ensure the business keeps ticking over.
Asked if she could be given the chance to repeat her experiences over the past five decades, if given the opportunity, Annie sits forward in her chair remarking: “Sure I’d have to say I would.”
Something tells you, she means every word.
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