“Wilt thou take this man to be thy lawful wedded husband, to love, honour and cherish in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, for better or for worse till death do you part?”
“I will,” said Winnie Beattie to the minister one Saturday afternoon in June 1931. Trouble was, her mum was not of the same mind. And this was just one event in the strangest romance Perth has ever seen.
Four years earlier young Jack Garrigan (then seventeen) fell in love with pretty, vivacious Winnie, then just fourteen. They spent all their spare time together, and during the day the stayed close since both were employed at Boan’s Department Store.
But when the Depression came, Jack lost his job. Winnie’s parents vowed they would not consent to any marriage while the lad was out of work.
However the couple were still wonderfully in love. Winnie gave Jack a photograph of herself inscribed, ‘To the most adorable boy in the world.’
One day they were walking by St George’s Cathedral when they saw the notices of forthcoming marriage. In a rush of pure love they agreed to marry and only tell their parents afterwards.
But whispers soon spread, and friends became excited. Wedding presents were purchased and what was going to be a quiet at the registrar’s office became a full ceremony in the cathedral with organ accompaniment.
On the night before the wedding, Winnie broke the news to her mother. There were, of course, tears and recriminations. Jack’s parents, though, still knew nothing.
On the Saturday the bride went off to dress at a friend’s house. One hour before the ceremony Jack went home—to break the news to mum and dad. Although in shock, Mr and Mrs Garrigran hid their feelings, and went to St George’s Cathedral to attend a wedding of which they were totally ignorant an hour before.
The little crowd of guests were not kept waiting. At 4 o’clock the young bridegroom took his seat in the front, attended by his close male friends. Unnoticed, a lady in a fawn coat stepped quietly inside, choosing a seat in the centre of the church.
As the organ started, the bride walked up the aisle on the arm of a friend, with two bridesmaids in attendance. The dignified figure of Dean Moore stood in front of the altar and the little party grouped round him.
The Dean read the words of the marriage service, until he came to the famous phrase. “If anyone knows just cause or impediment …”
Then out of the still Cathedral came a slow, distinct voice: “I object!”
The Dean looked down the aisle and the lady in the fawn coat approached the altar. “I am her mother,” she said, “and she is not 21!”
The guests whispered in little groups while the bride wept in the vestry. The minister spoke with the parents, but to no avail. The ceremony could not proceed.
The boy and girl drove away together, the guests drifted off, and soon the cathedral was empty. For the first time in the history of St. George’s Cathedral a parent had spoken and forbidden the marriage.
But love will find a way! The couple still had a license to marry in their possession, and within a couple of hours, a Methodist clergyman was uniting them in the sitting room of a home just off Beaufort Street.
That night a car slipped quietly away to the Kalamunda Hotel. None of the guests knew that the shy couple at breakfast on Sunday were the principals in a sensational events of the night before.
But shortly before lunch a car drew up at the hotel and with determined step a man and a woman entered. Mother and father stood before the bride and her husband. Within minutes, Jack was left alone in the bridal chamber. His wife was gone with her parents back to Perth, his honeymoon lasting just twelve hours.
The bride’s mother sought to have the marriage annulled on the grounds that both had married without their parents’ consent. The court ordered the bride be returned to her parents’ control until she reached the age of 21.
Within a week Winnie had gone to Melbourne, supposedly for a long holiday, but she paid for Jack to join her. And they both slipped back to Perth and took up new jobs.
In 1932, a notice appeared in the newspapers: ‘On June 22, at Malvern Private Hospital, 222 Eighth Avenue, Inglewood, to Mr and Mrs Garrigan, 29 Museum Street—a daughter (June Dawn). Both well. Visitors after 27th.’
Sometimes great stories do have happy endings.