Matthew McLaughlin was determined to ensure his trip home from Australia to see family was an especially memorable one.
Along with the opportunity to catch up with family headed by dad Tony and mum Karen, the 24-year-old medical student had a plan up his sleeve to pop the question to girlfriend Ebony Cornelius – and he didn’t intend to do it by halves.
Having grown up in Fylde, Matthew had a particularly striking landmark just up the road in mind – and enlisted the help of friends to ensure it was smoothly set up without Ebony being aware.
So Matthew invited Ebony, also 24, along to take a close-up look at Blackpool Tower and the Comedy Carpet, where they turned up to find a giant banner proclaiming “Will you marry me?” unfurled by friends.
As Matthew offered a sparkling engagement ring, Ebony had no hesitation in saying ‘yes’ and the couple, who returned to Australia this week, are now busy working on what will be a double set of dates for the wedding.
“We plan to set two dates - a Europe-based wedding and one based in Australia,” said Matthew.
“We’ve been together five years, having met at university in Australia while I was on an exchange scheme.
“Ebony then came to do an exchange at Nottingham Trent Univerity while I was at Loughborough.
“We actually met in Perth, and Ebony taught me the rules to Australian Rules Football on our first date – I was sold!
“I thought Blackpool Tower and the Comedy Carpet would be the perfect setting while we were over in England and we are so grateful to the friends who helped it all go so smoothly.
“It certainly made it a festive visit we will never forget and we are so looking forward to married life together.”
Matthew is a former pupil of King Edward and Queen Mary School in St Annes, now AKS, who was head boy there in 2012. He went on to Loughborough University and is currently working for the New South Wales Health service alongside his PhD studies in exercise and health, through the University of Newcastle, New South Wales.
Ebony is to shortly start her first year as a secondary school history and geography teacher in Newcastle.
Matthew’s dad Tony, proprietor of the Beach Cafe in St Annes, said: “It’s typical of Matthew for his proposal to be rather unconventional. They make a lovely couple and we are delighted for them.”