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Father Bennett was the Roman Catholic priest who married Harry Hewitt and Concepta Riley in October 1961.

Harry was a non-practicing protestant while Concepta was a devoted Irish catholic. Refusing to relinquish her faith, she made arrangements four months before for Harry to meet Father Bennett which the normally confident man nervously did. When they turned up for their appointment at St. Theresa's RC Church, Concepta was as nervous as her future husband and the two were thrown when the Father asked to see her alone first. He was not unkind to her as he had seen a number of mixed marriages in his time but some of them had turned out to be unhappy as the religious differences had caused conflicts between husband and wife and he needed Concepta to be certain about the step she was about to take. She had to admit that father, Sean Riley, was against the marriage as he still hated the British from his memories of the Irish war of independence and he refused to come over for the wedding. Upon hearing this, he asked her if she was quite sure that she was marrying Harry out of love and not simply to oppose her father. Upon being assured of her sincerity, he began arrangements to get the Bishop’s permission for a mixed marriage, to begin Harry’s instruction and made a provisional arrangement for the ceremony to take place on 20th September.

Concepta was ready for the news that the mixed marriage wouldn’t mean a nuptial mass, but bitterly disappointed that the Bishop wouldn’t allow either flowers or music at the ceremony. The kind and wily Father did mention though that if “someone” left flowers on the altar for the 9.00am mass, he might forget to remove them before any wedding which took place later the same day!

When it came to Harry’s turn, he admitted his surprise that the Father wasn’t Irish. He was further taken aback when he was told that he had to receive religious instruction to ensure that he understood that his wife and any of their children from the marriage would be raised a catholic. The Father had to explain to him that this meant that he had to encourage them to be a catholic and not make their own choices in later life, though this stricture didn’t apply to Lucille. They made an appointment to begin the instruction on the following Sunday, with Friday not being suitable as Harry was in a darts match with the Rovers playing The Swan. The priest knew that his local was unbeaten as the landlord of The Swan was one of his best parishioners!

As the months passed, Harry received his instruction for the wedding which was now set for 1st October but Sean and Shelagh Riley remained resolute that they wouldn’t be attending. With just a month to go to the wedding, Harry received his latest session of instruction but Concepta was puzzled to be asked to come along as well. She joined them at the last moment and Father Bennett left his study for a moment, only to return with a joyful surprise: Concepta’s parents, brought over from Ireland at the Priest’s instigation.

They quickly settled in their lodging at the Rovers and Sean’s opposition to the marriage somewhat abated. The four had another meeting with Father Bennett before the Rileys left for Ireland during which Shelagh offered to put up Lucille during the honeymoon.

List of appearances

1961

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