Eastern promise in store at matchmaking festival

Ireland’s last traditional matchmaker has become an unlikely hit in the Far East, as hordes of curious Chinese singletons seek out his old-fashioned services.

Cupid Willie Daly said 12 Chinese nationals who he’s paired up with Irish partners have subsequently walked down the aisle over the past year.

The third-generation matchmaker said the surge in interest from China, which is mostly from women hoping to marry Irish farmers, has resulted in one of his busiest periods for years.

And the veteran Co Clare love doctor said he expected to be even more in demand during the six-week Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival, which kicks off at the end of the month, when at least 40 Chinese people arrive looking for a partner.

Willie, 70, said: “The interest that’s suddenly come from China is phenomenal. It’s ever since the trade visit to Ireland back in February of China’s vice-president, Xi Jinping. I’ve received calls and correspondence from Chinese people ever since.

“We’re expecting about 40 Chinese people in Lisdoonvarna, most of who are women looking for a husband. The ladies tend to be shy, demure, and very lady-like and I’ll be warning them that things can get a bit lively in the bars towards to the end of the night.”

But Willie, who still uses the family’s tatty, 100-year-old diary to conjure up love matches, said he expected there to be more rich pickings for bachelor farmers than ever before at the 200-year-old singles fest.

“A few years ago a fella’s looks were important. Now, because of the downturn, women are more anxious than ever to get married and they want someone who’ll be able to take care of them. So if a fella’s missing his full set of teeth, but has a house and his mortgage paid off, he could still attract a good bit of interest.

“When it comes to the looks department, women seem to be getting less picky every year.”

“And farmers are more in vogue than ever before, because they’ve been doing better than most in the recession and their incomes are even slightly up on last year. So farmers are seen as good husband material, because they can provide stability.

“That’s good news because the festival was first started by the farmers arriving in town looking for love.”

Willie, who insists on being present to introduce couples on their first dates, added: “People may talk about Paris and Venice, but there’s nowhere as romantic as Lisdoonvarna in September.”

The festival runs for six weeks from Aug 31 to Oct 7.


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