Two couples who started out as penfriends tell Kay Doyle how love and marriage blossomed from the pages of this very magazine.

Five years ago when Sarah Mahon was flicking through her weekly copy of Ireland’s Own, little did she know that the penfriend ad that caught her eye would change her life forever.

Sarah, from Tullow in Co. Carlow, an only child, was looking for companionship after both her parents died. In fact, she continued buying Ireland’s Own every week in their honour, keeping up a tradition she had grown up with.

“To be honest I never ever read the penfriends,” she recalls, “but this particular week, I don’t know what it was but on the last page I turned, on the top of it was a farmer looking for a woman. Just like that I wondered how I’d even reply.

“I remember ringing up the Ireland’s Own office and asking the girl what to do. She explained everything so I wrote a short brief note and that was a Wednesday. On the Monday evening I got a reply from him – John Kelly from Co. Wexford. From that day on, five years this August we have been together.”

Sarah’s mother came from New Ross, in Co. Wexford, and a month after writing to John, she was down in the area visiting an aunt. When John rang, as had become their routine, she happened to mention she was close by. And so for the first time, they agreed to meet in person.

“We spoke on the phone a lot and had been texting every day but that evening I met him for the very first time,” she recalls fondly. “I was so nervous when I went to meet him but after a few minutes I just knew he was the man for me. I wasn’t thinking of ever meeting a man to be honest and we clicked straight away.”

Just like that, the friendship had blossomed into love and within a year, John asked Sarah to marry him.
“Was it a romantic proposal?” she laughs. “No, it was the farmer’s way. He just asked me out straight would I stick by him and would he stick by me and that was it. I said yes.”

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own