Age is not a barrier to living a happy life for Willie Daly

Matchmaker, Willie Daly, tells Margaret Jennings that he wants people to go out and live their lives to the full and stop worrying about age or saying that they’re too old.

OLDER people looking for love need to step out of their comfort zone and stop telling themselves they are ‘past it’, says Ireland’s famous matchmaker, Willie Daly.

Whether they have never found a special person, or have lost a partner through death or separation, there is plenty of life left to be lived in the later years, he advises.

The Clareman, who coyly admits to being in his early 70s, continues to live life to the full himself, although he and his wife Marie separated several years ago.

Having reared six girls and two boys —now all young adults — the grandfather of 15 admits love is not a black and white issue and he is still “very fond” of Marie and she of him.

“We would talk every day often, but we’d have reason to, as well, with a big family and stuff.”

Though he doesn’t elaborate much, he concedes that he, like those who seek out his matchmaking services, wouldn’t mind a companion: “I am kind of single and everyone is interested in finding someone in their life — to find happiness and love you know.

“The children are grown up and gone within reason. But my life is so hectic – I’m always gone and doing stuff. In the winter I go around the country doing matchmaking nights in different counties in hotels and pubs.”

Is there a chance he might meet someone along the way then? “To be honest, with the matchmaking, when people come in and sign up they don’t expect me to say ‘what about me?’ so it wouldn’t be ethical.

“But I do love dancing – rock ’n’ roll is my favourite dance so I get out plenty, if I need to. There isn’t a lot where I live, but if I make a good effort I can go to cities for dancing.”

This brings us back to the need to make that effort as you age.

“Sometimes when people hit their 60s — I meet a lot of them at the matchmaking — they feel they’re getting old and no one will be interested in them any longer, but that’s totally not true.

“Women in particular nowadays look very attractive into their 70s and there are a lot of women in rural parts of Ireland and indeed in cities, who have lost maybe a partner and the family could have grown up and gone.

“They’re very much lonely and alone and they kind of tolerate their life, but it’s not so nice for them, and if they did get out and make a decent effort, they would find somebody they feel good being with, who they can talk to and share things with.”

He has found that this lack of effort is actually visible in men. “I see a lot of men —from their mid 50s on to their late 60s — let themselves go —they have thrown in the towel and this is apparent in how they dress and how they keep themselves.

“You may say that’s easy to change, but having the will or the inspiration isn’t always as easy as it seems. There’s many a man who’d have a great social life and would have ten more years of it, if he put a bit of effort in. Some women are very good at it.”

Though he may be without a partner to share his life at the moment, the third-generation matchmaker certainly isn’t giving up on any front. He broke into song and quoted lines of poetry while we chatted and apart from his love of dancing, he plays guitar and the tin whistle at Daly’s bar in Ennistymon, which he runs with his daughter Claire.

On the fitness front although he jokes that he is more a “psychological exerciser”, dreaming, rather than doing, he does stay active running the farm and training horses with one of his sons.

While he gave up alcohol a few years back, he now drinks a whiskey and a few beers: “I decided as an Irish person if you don’t drink you don’t exist – as a matchmaker and an Irish person it’s expected you drink and socialise.”

Meanwhile, people come from around the country and further afield to touch the “lucky” matchmaking book that has been within his family for 160 years – although it hasn’t been opened for the past quarter of a century. “If you touch it with both hands you will be in love and married within six months. 

If you touch it with one, you will only be in love. And if you’re already married and you touch it with both hands, you will recreate the first three weeks of your honeymoon. So you can’t go wrong,” he laughs. Perhaps one day soon the magic will work on its current owner?


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