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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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5 March, 2021

Love wins out

THE BIRDSVILLE community has rallied around a Queensland couple, who after three postponed wedding dates, are finally tying the knot where it all began.

By Morgan Burley

Anne-Marie Donovan and Darryl Burley exchanged wedding rings on the day they were originally meant to be married, March 27 2020, however are excited to officially be joined as husband and wife at the Birdsville Hotel – where it all began. PHOTO: Annielyn Images.

THE BIRDSVILLE community has rallied around a Queensland couple, who after three postponed wedding dates, are finally tying the knot where it all began.  

Anne-Marie Donovan travelled from Victoria with a group of friends to attend the legendary Birdsville Races in 2012, only to run into one of Fred Brophy’s Boxing Troupe fighters, Darryl Burley, known in the tent as Digger.  

“We literally bumped into each other — when we say it, we mean it, on the boxing mat,” Anne-Marie said.  

“Darryl was tagging two teenage boys, and I think my opening line, because I’m a mother of a teenage boy, was ‘Don’t you hurt those boys, they have mother’s somewhere.’,” she laughed.  

“We chatted a bit afterwards, got some photos on the mat and that was pretty much it for 2012.”  

In 2013, the pair ran into each other at the Birdsville races once again.  

“We were watching The CrackUp Sisters out on the street perform and I saw Darryl across the road, and I thought ‘Gee, he’s looking good.’,” Anne-Marie said.  

“I literally bumped into my ex-boyfriend under the verandah of the pub that afternoon… so that was the impetus I needed to push me to go around to Darryl and say “Hey, g’day, it’s me. Remember me?”  

Darryl said he was assisting with the games on the street, and instantly recognised Anne-Marie.  

“There had been conversations over Facebook, so of course I recognised her when she came up and we just talked,” he said.  

“Yeah, we chatted for about an hour and a half, and your Dad asked if I would be in the pub that night, and I said ‘Yeah, I’ll catch you later on.’,” Anne-Marie said.  

“Later that night I saw him standing in the bar at the dining room.  

“I eventually went over and said hello… and that’s the room we’re now getting married in.”  

According to Anne-Marie, Darryl bought her a drink and put his arm around her, though he struggles to remember that part.  

“I do, and that was it really. We didn’t really part ways for those next four days, and then we thought, what do we do after this?” Anne-Marie said.  

At the time, Anne-Marie lived in Victoria, while Darryl was in Toowoomba, Queensland.  

“I remember your Dad clearly saying, ‘I think I’ll regret it if I don’t [give it a shot].’,” she said.  

In 2018, again at the Birdsville Races, Darryl took the shot and asked Anne-Marie to marry him, in the same spot they had met six years prior.  

“I was getting cranky from the heat and wind… and little Noah, a boy with someone else from the tent, came and said ‘Annie, Digger wants you in the tent.’,” she said.  

“I said, ‘All right mate, okay.’ and he was standing on the boxing mat in his yellow satin boxing gown he was wearing on the night I first saw him, and he proposed.  

“I didn’t know he had rung the five of you [children]; and for my three to ask for their permission.  

“That was lovely that he did that.”  

The couple scheduled their wedding for March 27, 2020 – a date they would soon come to realise was five days after the world changed forever.  

On March 22, 2020, Australian state and territories began to close their borders to each other and the rest of the world as COVID-19 hit.  

Anne-Marie’s family, including two of her children, lived interstate, while I lived in South Australia, and the rest of the family in Queensland.  

The decision was made the postpone the wedding until they could have their friends and family with them on their special day.  

“We were devastated,” Anne-Marie said.  

“I really felt for first time brides, because we were devastated, but we knew there wasn’t a choice. “In a way, there was a sense of relief, because in the lead up… everything kept changing every half-hour almost across the nation in the week before hand.   
“Now we knew for sure.  

“One of the things we had decided was it’s all of our children or none of them, because we felt it was terribly unfair if one of our five couldn’t be there.   

“So, we just couldn’t do it without all of you there.”  

Darryl said, although it was a difficult decision, it was a no-brainer.  

“We didn’t want a big group of people if we couldn’t have our kids there,” he said.  

The couple scheduled their wedding for October 9, but as COVID-19 restrictions continued, pushed the wedding to mid-November.   

Due to the ever-changing pandemic, the wedding was postponed again until today, February 26.  

“After a few months, Melbourne [where a majority of the family lived] was looking good, and the borders were open,” Anne-Marie said.  

“We were feeling confident but knowing there was a bit of a risk, we booked the 26th of February to do the whole family big wedding.  

“But it was in late January when Brisbane went into a sudden three-day lockdown, that I thought, we can’t do this.  

“It’s too risky for our family.  

“That’s when I said to Darryl, ‘Birdsville! Why not Birdsville? It’s our place.’.”  

The decision depended on their children.   

“We asked the five of you kids first, that was our priority to know that the five of you were happy for that to happen,” Anne-Marie said.  

“God bless all of you because you were just all beautiful in your responses.   

“You all said, ‘It’s perfect, and you need to be married, so do this.’.”  

The couple, with two witnesses and their celebrant, will be married this afternoon at the historic Birdsville Hotel.  

The community has rallied around the couple, assisting them with video, photography, make-up, hair stylings, and more.  

“We will have that big party and celebration when all of this COVID horror show is over,” Anne-Marie said.  

“But, it was absolutely the right choice, because exactly what we feared, has happened.  

“[Because of border restrictions between Queensland and Victoria] our families, particularly all of our children wouldn’t have been able to come up for the wedding.  

“So we absolutely made the right decision.”  

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