My Speech on the Occasion of the Wedding of our Daughter Mary in London on the 15th July 2005

Ladies and gentlemen - May I say how welcome you all are at this most happy occasion of the wedding of our daughter Mary to Anthony. For Agnes and me it is poignant, Mary being the last of our three children to marry. As you will know, Mary’s brother was married in the year 2001 and her sister in the following year. They brought into our family two wonderful people - Kyoko and Ben, and we soon came to realise that we no longer had three children to cherish, but five. And today the number has become six. Actually, that is not quite accurate - we have eight, because to our delight we found that when Sarah and Ben gave us our two beautiful grandchildren, that we loved them every bit as much as we had done our own. And who knows when that number will reach nine - and beyond that into double figures?

Mary was long in choosing the right man for herself. And her mother and I are in no doubt whatever that Anthony is the right man for our daughter. In her time, Mary gave me plenty of cause for worry, and one of my biggest worries was her assertion that the only man she ever wanted to marry would have to be just like her daddy. She would look at me and say "Well - can’t you take a compliment?" I shook my head and responded "I am indeed complimented. But there is a problem - and that is that a man like me would never want to marry a woman like you!"

Mary was suitably offended. "Right - " she fired back at me, "just for that, I’ve decided that I’m not going to get married, ever. And you and Mummy will just have to put up with me for the rest of your lives"

I took her half seriously and worried some more. Then a little more than a year ago we became aware that someone special had entered her life. The rather regular telephone calls pleading with me to go to her flat and unblock a drain, empty a sprung mousetrap or turn off the iron that she thought she might have left on when she went to work, ceased rather abruptly. At first I thought "Now what have I done to upset her?" And then Anthony was brought round to see us. And I knew that life would never be the same again for us or indeed for Mary. Her mother and I had never seen her so happy - and it was no wonder, because in Anthony she has found the very best. So mixed with my sense of having being made somehow redundant, I felt a profound relief.

As the months went by, Agnes and I began to wonder whether their relationship might progress to an engagement and beyond. And there was at least one false alarm when Mary telephoned and said "Daddy - Anthony has something important to ask you!" "Oh yes?" I responded, and I pulled a chair over and sat down to ready myself. Anthony came on to the telephone "Hi Henry!" Said he "We’re putting up curtains and I wondered if you might have a reversible screwdriver you could lend me?"

I knew that Mary was winding me up - but the request for my daughter’s hand in marriage did indeed come earlier this year, rather casually as it turned out while Anthony was helping me to shift boxes of Mary’s redundant belongings into our loft. I don’t know who felt the more embarrassed, but we quickly recovered and went downstairs to join Mary and her mother for a celebratory drink - and we were both delighted and happy for them.

When my cousin Ian, who I am glad to say is with us today, joined us for Mary’s sister’s wedding, over three years ago now, he made the delightful observation that it was one of the happiest weddings he had ever been to. This was about the nicest compliment he could have given and I have never forgotten it. More is the pity then that he was not able to attend her brother John’s wedding at the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo the year before that. He would have cut a fine figure indeed had he joined us in being attired in the traditional Japanese dress for such occasions, as we all were. Seeing my two daughters so resplendent - not to mention their beautiful mother - reminds me of some lines written by the poet Yeats. With regard to Mary and her sister I think them pertinent, as I am sure you will agree. Yeats wrote of the home of the Gore-Booth family in County Sligo:


The light of evening, Lisadell,

Great windows open to the south

Two girls in silk kimonos

Both beautiful, one a gazelle.

There is no doubting the beauty of Mary and her sister - and is it any wonder, for they are their mother’s daughters. And I am sure that Mary is more cultured than to be dismayed by Yeats’s analogy, since she is indeed a creature of elegance, quickness and grace.

Before I finish, may I be permitted to express a brief word of love, admiration and appreciation to my dear wife, Agnes. I think I know better than anyone the amount of thought, anxiety and hard work she has put in to making this such a successful occasion, and the huge amount of support that she has given to Mary in these recent months.

Mary and Anthony - may we wish you joy and fulfilment in your future together. And may I leave you with this little thought: few things are more precious in this life than the capacity to love - and by that I mean to love without expectation of payback and where payback is indeed an irrelevance. And few things bring deeper contentment than the certainty that you yourself are loved, and it is that certain knowledge, too, that will bring you solace in times when fate has been less than kind to you.

Ladies and gentlemen - may I ask you to raise your glasses and join me in a toast - to the Bride and Groom, Mary and Anthony.

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