Letterkenny man’s total eclipse of the heart

By Paddy Walsh

HAD The Scullery coffee shop on Derry’s Waterloo Street not been crowded Stephen Coyle and Toni MacCrossan might never have met.

But fate, coupled with the extremely busy premises, directed them to share a table and soon the noise all around them was eclipsed by locked eyes and smiles.


And an ever growing sense that something was blossoming.

“I had just moved here from Texas and it was about two weeks later when I met Stephen. The coffee shop was very packed and we ended up at the same table. And he was wearing a shirt with birds on it and I love birds!,” Toni chirps.

And soon romance was flying high between the Texan and the Letterkenny native and on August 1 next, the affable couple will tie the knot in Donegal – not quite a total eclipse of the heart but they nevertheless ventured as close as can be to that phenomenon.

Explains Stephen: “I’m a bit of an astronomy nerd and I had checked up about the total eclipse. There had been a big one in America in 2017 and I looked up about the next one and knew, long before I met Toni, that there was one this year.

“The one in 2017 went west to east coast – this one was going south to north-east and I was looking at it again and knew it was going very near to where Toni’s family is from.”

And not just that, as Toni reveals: “The path of totality was right over the town I grew up in!.”

That town is Kerrville, the county seat of Kerr County in the state of Texas. A town basically the same size of Stephen’s native area, Letterkenny, with a population as confirmed by the 2012 census of 24,278.


“We were over in November 2022 for a visit and we were thinking we were due for another trip and realised the total eclipse was going to be perfectly placed and that was as good an excuse to go back again.

“There was a colossal amount of people travelling to the area for it and Kerrville had begun their disaster protocol because they were expecting such a huge influx.

“Very convenient having a place to stay in the middle of it all,” laughs Stephen.

Coming up to the eclipse they were watching the weather forecast because initially there was a lot of cloud cover forecast.

“We went for two weeks and the eclipse was scheduled for our second last day. And just on the day it started clearing quite well and you could see blue sky behind the clouds and then it was perfect in the run-up and we had a great view of the whole thing.”

Toni herself shares a passion for astronomy. “It was always something that I was interested in. I ended up becoming a microbiologist so I was always science minded. I had seen the eclipse in 2017 and we saw all the bits of light turn into crescent shapes.

“But I had never seen a total eclipse before.”

The memories of April 8th last will linger long into the future for the couple. The songs of mockingbirds suddenly being silenced; the automatic car park lights going on as if night time had descended.

“It was incredible. We had four minutes and twenty-five seconds of total darkness – just an amazing experience,” Toni reflects.

“A strange experience, too, where you feel like everything is upside down. The sun is definitely supposed to be there and it’s noon.”

Toni’s father, Gerard, is a native of Derry and much of her family still reside here in the North-West. Stephen’s mother, Marie Doherty, meanwhile, is from Kilmacrenan and is well known around Letterkenny having worked as a nurse in the hospital. Toni’s mother, Elizabeth, hails from Texas.

The couple will tie the knot at the Lough Eske Hotel on August 1. ‘Toni’s parents and sister and some friends are coming here for the wedding,” Stephen relates.

The couple have bought a house in the Cathedral Town and the Texan native is delighted to be putting down roots here.

“I really love Letterkenny. It’s a beautiful, diverse town with a good few things to do and beautiful scenery all around. And a lot of incredible musicians around – we’re really spoiled for choice.”

“Including you…..,” Toni glances at her fiancée.

Stephen studied music before becoming a software engineer. “I play piano but haven’t done too much in recent times. But I hope to get back to playing again sometime.”

Indeed he has already performed during shows in the An Grianán Theatre.

And not the only musical talent where this good humoured couple is concerned. “Toni is a good singer,” Stephen returns the compliment.

Expect a performance at a venue near you – perhaps attempting ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’!

There are tentative plans to visit the North of Spain on August 12, 2026, for the next eclipse that coincides with Stephen’s mum’s birthday.

“It’s so close it would be a shame not to go to it,” he declares.

Meanwhile, Stephen has news to relate. There will be a solar eclipse in Donegal coming up in June!

But don’t bother marking the calendar – they haven’t been printed yet – this is June 2156 we’re talking about….!

And even love that stirred in a coffee shop might not be able to last that long!

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland