Few can boast 70 years of marriage – but Keith and Margaret McGinnity can.
The Boggabri residents celebrated seven decades together on November 27 – a rare milestone.
The couple marked their platinum wedding anniversary with more than 100 family members and friends from Cowra, Newcastle, Branxton, Tamworth, Chinchilla, Wee Waa and Narrabri. Country music singer John Battle and family friends Des and John Samuels provided entertainment.
Keith was born in 1926 and raised in Baan Baa. Two years later, Margaret was born in Boggabri, just 20km away. They each had three siblings apiece and attended the local schools.
“I left school at 15 and went out to work at Nandewar to look after the children. There were four girls I looked after,” Margaret said.
The property was owned by Kelly Vickery who ran sheep and cropping.
Keith left the Tullamulla school at the age of 14 and took up gardening.
“I ended up a a gardener at Calooa where my dad was working; he was a farmhand,” Keith said.
Keith and Margaret said they met at the end of World War II at a ball in Boggabri in 1945. They had both attended with friends and Keith was just shy of 20 when he asked Margaret to dance.
The lovebuds enjoyed one another’s company as they went to “the pictures” and attended picnics and weekly balls in “the old open-air dance hall” of the Church of England in Boggabri.
“There were dances here every Saturday night,” Keith said.
“It was unreal.”
The pair tied the knot on November 27, 1948 at the St Barnabas’ Church, then known as the Church of England. Margaret was 20 and Keith was 22.
“We had to get permission from the Bishop [of Armidale] to marry,” Keith said.
Margaret was attended by her sister Marjorie McGinnity and Keith was attended by his best friend Geoff Guest. Margaret said they married very late in the day because “it was so hot”.
“We caught the train the next day down to Sydney and stayed at Bondi,” she said.
Margaret had left her nannying position at Nandewar and the newlyweds rented a home in Baan Baa. Keith left his gardening position and took up shearing.
The couple only stayed in the house for 12 months before moving to Arlington where Keith started doing farm work for Ray Whan.
Keith and Margaret welcomed their son Colin into the world in 1951. Nine months later, Keith was offered a position at Nandewar and they moved into one of the farm’s homesteads, Riverview.
Margaret said it was a “a really big, old home” and it had no telephone and no electricity to start with.
Colin was four years old when the flood of 1955 left the family “marooned”. Keith was “chasing cattle” on horseback when the wall of water flowed across the land.
“[Colin] was standing on the verandah saying, ‘Is Dad coming back?’ and that's when the dam wall at Keepit came down,” Margaret said.
“It rolled in like the ocean.
“That’s something I’ll never forget.”
The McGinnity’s said food was helicoptered in and was the worse for wear after being dropped from such a great height.
The family also had to battle the elements in the form of snakes, with frequent sightings and a quick end for many.
Colin’s schooling started as correspondence under the guiding hand of his mother, but they soon lost patience with one another, and after a year, he was sent to closest school.
The family stayed at Nandewar for 12 years, leaving in the mid-1960s because of drought.
“There was no work,” Keith said.
“There were four working on the properties and there wasn’t enough to keep us going, so I put my hand up to leave.”
The McGinnity’s packed up and moved to Boggabri where they bought a home at 55 Wee Waa Street.
Keith spent the next 22 years working for the railway doing carpentry, maintenance on tracks and railway buildings, and working on bridges.
In 1955, they sold their home in Wee Waa Street and shifted to Narrabri so they could be closer to Keith's work and their son Colin and his wife Bronwyn. The pair had their first child, Tania, in 1973 and Margaret was on-hand to help.
“[Bronwyn] was still teaching, so I looked after the baby,” Margaret said.
Keith retired from the railway in 1988 and in 1997, he and Margaret bought a home at 113 Wee Waa Street in Boggabri so they could be closer to Margaret’s mother.
The pair now have three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, which Margaret says is “not bad for one couple”.
The McGinnity’s still live in the same house and it was here that the husband and wife recalled their memories for the NVI.
Keith is now 92 and Margaret is 90 and they have “lots of good memories”, but also feel a sense of loss because “all those who grew up with us are all gone”.
“We’ve had a lot of happy memories and we’ve had a lot of sad ones,” Margaret said.
“I can pick up [wedding presents] now and still have good memories of who gave them to me.”
She said Keith had a “terrific memory” and if he saw someone he recognised, he would chew over it until he recalled their name.
“It might be in the middle of the night and you get a dig in the ribs, and he’ll say, ‘That was such and such’,” Margaret said.
Thinking back on the milestone they had reached in their marriage, Keith said it was “something great”.
“We’ve had our discussions at times, but we’ve worked together,” he said.
Margaret echoed her husband’s words.
“As far as I’m concerned, with a marriage, it’s give and take, and if you can’t give and take, I can’t see how you can get on.”