George and Barbara Clarke recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, with a love story that begun at a church dance when they were 17 and 21 years old “It was April 24th 1954” says George. “It cost me a shilling to get in, that’s 5p! It was the best 5p I’ve ever invested.”
“There was this crowd of them and some of the girls I was with knew them, because they’d all gone to the same church and school. But I hadn’t been to their school so I didn’t really know who they were. I had never been to a school where there were boys.” Explains Barbara.
“And I had never been to a school where there were girls!” adds George.
“At the dance the girls would all come in and be sat round the room on chairs around the walls. It was up to us men to go and say “will you dance” it was quite a daunting thing to walk across the room and think what am I going to do if they say no. I danced with 1 or 2 others…and then I saw Barbara.” Smiles George.
And from there, their relationship blossomed! We call it dating now, but they called it ‘courting’ – and not too long after, they decided to make their love be one that they commit to forever!
“We got engaged on the 20th June 1955 at Chester Zoo!” Says George. “We married when Barbara was 20 and a half and 9 days, and I was 23 years 9months and 1 day. On the 29th December 1956.” As you can tell, George has a sharp memory for important dates!
“My mother was most disapproving because she said I should have waited until I was 21.” Says Barbara.
“You had to be 21 to marry without parental consent…Well my dad just signed it, he didn’t mind.”
After overcoming the hurdles of consent (including from the church itself!) they got married on a winter’s morning in Preston.
And here we are, 60 years later! I asked the question we all want to know…what is the secret to such a long and happy marriage? But I am quickly corrected by Barbara; “it’s not all been happy. We’ve had quite a few ding-dongs.”
“Mainly when I let the job get in the way of me family, it was usually my fault. But she likes a little sulk.” Adds George.
It’s a beautiful reminder that nothing is perfect, but good things take work.
“We were brought up on pretty strict rules really, and when you made a promise it was to be kept. Keeping your marriage vows is not easy. And there are times when I should have re-read my marriage vows to see where I was standing. There’s no simple rule, but love conquers all, and it just does. Even when we were cross with one another we both knew that was temporary, and it was going to be resolved somehow but who was going to give in first.” Says George.
“And I wasn’t very good at giving in I’m afraid.” Adds Barbara.
But despite the ‘ding-dongs’ along the way, the couple are still very much in love. I wanted to know if the things they love about one another have changed much over the years.
“To start with he grew on me. It was a shock when he kept asking me to go out with him. So I thought what’s this all about really? He grew on me and he’s still growing on me.” Barbara says playfully.
“I just love the whole package. She’s brilliant, really brilliant. She just doesn’t let anything get her down.” Adds George.
And finally, with the past 60 years in mind, what does love mean to them?
“It means you’ve got to be giving you can’t be receiving all the time. And true love is thinking of the other before you are thinking of yourself.” Says Barbara.
“Yes Barbara summed it up – it’s giving and receiving without thought of self. Always be willing to see the others point of view.”
With few models of lasting marriage in today’s society, it’s really special to have the opportunity to get an insight in to what love really is all about. We hope you feel as inspired as we do!
Happy Valentines Day!