In love and in life, the eyes have it

The Times We Lived In – Published: August 11th, 1960. Photograph: Jimmy McCormack

What with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, depositing garlands of romance and long-stemmed red roses all over the gaff, it seems like the perfect week to reproduce this image of two handsome young people, smiling at each other with uncomplicated joy.

Given the affectionate, even intimate nature of the photograph, it’s rather surprising to find it carries a rather grumpy, terse caption. “Dr Eric Arnott and his fiancee Miss Langue,” it reads. “Their engagement has been announced.”

Perhaps the photographer was cross about being ordered to carry out this particular assignment. Sir John Arnott, the Scottish-Irish entrepreneur, founder of the department store and three-times Lord Mayor of Cork, had once owned The Irish Times. Eric's father, Sir Robert Arnott, was a director of the newspaper. It might have been a case of obeying an order from the higher echelons.

And yet, if that were the case, why did he take such a beguiling snap of the pair? It’s surprising.


But then, The Irish Times of August 1960 is a surprising paper. Leafing through its pages I find pictures of Irish soldiers setting off to take up duties in the Congo. I find our features editor, Jack White, interviewing Che Guevara.

And I find a picture of the very lovely Annouchka Von Meks, whose romance with the Aga Khan was keeping Europe agog in the days before social media. Would the celebrity couple get engaged? The gossip columns were alive with rumours, but that particular story didn’t have a happy ending.

Our optimistic young couple, happily, fared much better. They may be gazing dreamily into each other’s eyes here, but they were realists. Arnott became a pioneering eye surgeon and Veronica was right there with him. Together they organised the world’s first live opthalmic symposium, with live micro-surgery relayed to the world courtesy of the BBC. After he retired they travelled around India, bringing eye surgery to remote villages.

It just goes to show. Young love isn’t always blind.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.