Rally fan won wife with chat-up line: '˜Can I wash your windscreen?'

When this year's Circuit of Ireland starts on Thursday, for one pair of long-time racing fans it means more than just motoring.

Will Wilson and his wife Edna at their home in Newcastle, Co Down
Will Wilson and his wife Edna at their home in Newcastle, Co Down

The 2016 event marks 85 years since the extravaganza began, and it has a special sentimental value for husband-and-wife Will and Edna Wilson.

They had first met during the event about 60 years ago.

By 1961 they were married – meaning that this year they are celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary.

Edna pictured with her sister Iris during the Circuit of Ireland in the 1950s

At the time, Co Down-based Will and a friend – Dr WD Thornton – entered an MG TC vehicle in the Circuit of Ireland.

Will, then in his 20s, said “there was a lot of interest in the rally in the area and we decided to give it a go”.

Whist parked up waiting to tackle a test in the west of Ireland, Dr Thornton spotted the two young ladies in the next car.

He then ordered Will to find a reason to chat to them.

Edna pictured with her sister Iris during the Circuit of Ireland in the 1950s

Will – seeking to find an excuse to engage them before they disappeared – grabbed the damp sponge they carried in a bag, washed their own windscreen, then offered to do the same for the MG TD driven by the sisters.

“We were intrigued by the two girls in the car so I had to do some quick thinking,” he said.

After the pair agreed to his proposition, he said: “I washed their windscreen profusely!”

The girls were sisters Edna and Iris, whose family owned a business called Andrews Motorcycles in Belfast and who had previously competed on the Circuit of Ireland before.

Edna and Will kept in touch, and Edna soon joined the Mourne Motor Club, of which Will was a member.

Later, Will asked Edna to become his wife – with Edna saying that they went on to live “happily ever after”.

They married on April 5 – an anniversary they marked with a trip to Abu Dhabi.

The couple live in Newcastle, County Down and have three children – Caroline (who went on to become a Circuit of Ireland rally marshal), Janette and William – as well as eight grandchildren.

They still retain their interest in cars, but have long since given up rallying.

Will has instead opted to take up sailing – he is now president of Newcastle Life Boat Station – while Edna went on to become a captain and president of Royal County Down Ladies Golf Club.

Speaking to UTV news on Tuesday, the couple were asked who was the more skilful driver. Pointing to his wife (who once won the Circuit of Ireland Ladies Award), Will said: “She’s a much better driver than I am!”

This year’s Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place from April 7 to 9 across Co Antrim, Co Down and Belfast.

According to organisers, it now has a global television audience of 40 million viewers.