The Endurance of Love openhearted: Eighty Years of Love, Loss, Laughter and Letting Go. Ann Ingle

Eoin Meegan

Ann Ingle is a wonderful writer, warm, witty, and clearly with a story to tell. Growing up in London in a working class family she was in every way the typical English girl. That was until she met Irishman Peter Ingle. The couple fell madly in love on that fortuitous day in Cornwall when their paths – by what mysterious workings, who knows – crossed, and even some 40 years after his passing one still senses reading these pages that that love hasn’t dimmed.
Ann writes: “At the end of our first traumatic married year, Peter and I were closer than ever. He was kind and tender and grateful for my love and forgiveness. We were, as the cliché goes, madly in love. In love, madly.”
When Ann moved to Dublin in the early ‘60s life wasn’t easy. At first the couple lived in Bath Avenue, but then moved to their permanent home in Sandymount Green where they spent many happy years and raised eight children. Ann had done a secretarial course and supplemented their income by taking in typing work. Always a wizard on the keyboard, she established her own typing business, numbering such luminaries as Mary Lavin, Frank Mc Guinness, Lord Kilanin – then president of the International Olympic Committee – and singer and actress Agnes Bernelle among her clients. She recounts her graduation from her trusty old typewriter, to an electric upgrade, then a word processor, and finally to the modern computer with fondness and love.

The book tells of her initial struggles adapting to her new country, and the many cultural differences between the English and Irish. For example, when growing up in London her family insisted their meat came from New Zealand. When Ann asked a butcher in Dublin where his lamb came from, he looked at her as if she had lost her marbles, and replied ‘a sheep in Wicklow’. But despite early awkwardness she fell in love with Ireland almost instantly, later becoming an Irish citizen. Over the years she has fully immersed herself in her community and in Irish culture; all the same it’s nice to know she hasn’t lost her London accent.
However, openhearted isn’t just Ann’s story. At its centre is the figure of Peter Ingle, tragically taken too soon from her after a valiant and prolonged battle with mental illness. She told NewsFour that the book was “written to preserve his memory.” While he may have been lacking in formal education, as so many were at the time, Peter Ingle had a cultured side, was self-educated, and at times displayed a deep sensitivity. For example, he loved music and had a very eclectic taste, listening to everything from Frank Sinatra to Jazz, to traditional Irish, and everything in between. He also had a beautiful singing voice, and regaled many a crowd in his local pub. And from the letters that he wrote to Ann, some of which she kindly shares with us in the book, his natural flair for words and language cannot be disguised. His kindness and sensitive side clearly shine through in these winsome love missives.
After Peter’s death Ann returned to higher education, first doing a University Foundation Course at Pearse College in Crumlin – a gateway for many to Third Level – as well as sitting the Leaving Cert here in Ringsend College as a mature student. This saw her enter the hallowed halls of Trinity College where she graduated with a degree in History and English. She loved her time there, particularly the lectures of David Norris and Brendan Kennelly. During this time she procured one of the famed, and notoriously difficult to get, J1 visas and promptly packed her bags and headed for the US, where she spent a year in Seattle getting up to plenty of devilment. And always the innovator, she also found time (God knows where!) back in the ‘80s to collate and publish the first ever NewsFour.
Later through the good offices of Paul Howard (aka Ross O’Carroll-Kelly) she was introduced to Rosemary Smith for whom she acted as ghost writer on Smith’s acclaimed autobiography Driven, which was nominated for a Bord Gáis Energy award. The pair have remained close friends since.
Ann’s passion for writing comes across in her words, her authenticity, her attention to detail, and her ability to make you feel as if you too were part of her story. She tells me she feels so privileged to be published by Penguin. Never one to hide her light or her views, she writes: “I am a woman who enjoyed sex and wanted a large family. Sex for me was never dirty. Having eight beautiful children was not dirty. The fact that anyone could suggest such a thing was disgusting.” Compiled from 80 years of memories, and composed during the hiatus that Covid afforded, Ann admits candidly that the book “is really a series of essays about me and Peter.” This, their lasting love is what predominantly comes through these pages.
openhearted is a wonderful read, and was launched – albeit with less fanfare than would have been the case were it not for Covid – just at the end of September. It will make a great Christmas present.
openhearted: Eighty Years of Love, Loss, Laughter and Letting Go, published by Penguin Books, is available from Books on the Green, and all good book shops.

Images: Book cover, Ann and Peter’s Wedding. All courtesy of the author.