On a Fred. Olsen cruise, four couples celebrating 50-plus years together reveal their recipe for a successful marriage.
What is the secret of a long, happy and successful marriage? Well, as I only managed 12 years, I’m probably not the best person to answer the question. But some of the passengers on a 16-night Fred. Olsen cruise from Dover to the French Riviera, Spain and Portugal, were well enough qualified in the marital stakes to comment. Many enjoyed wedding cake and cocktails as they watched the televised wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on a big screen in Boudicca’s Neptune Lounge.
We wish the newlyweds well, but perhaps the Royal couple might benefit from wise words of those who’ve notched up the years, working together through thick and thin to uphold their marriage vows, keep their love alive and their commitment steadfast. After the Royal Wedding ceremony, I spoke to four couples on the Fred. Olsen cruise, each celebrating 50-plus years of marriage, this year.
Below, they describe their own weddings from the 1950s and 1960s and offer their tips and advice on how to maintain a long and happy partnership.
Veronica and Frank Gilduff
In 1960, Veronica and Frank Gilduff spent just £20 on their wedding and arranged it in only 10 days. The couple, who live in Clacton-on-Sea, celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary, this year. They met when Frank was 16, Veronica 14, he was singing, she was dancing in a charity road show. Then again three years later, when Veronica was performing at the Pavilion Theatre, Liverpool. “I was working at Woolworths and dancing nightly in a variety show. Jimmy Tarbuck was billed as ‘Liverpool’s new young comedian’. He was 18!” explains Veronica, 75. Frank, 78, adds: “Veronica was a great dancer with lovely legs and a great personality.” He then joined the Royal Navy as a cook, and he and Veronica started writing to each other.
Frank decided to propose before he went to the Far East for 12 months. Veronica laughs: “I didn’t really fancy Frank until I saw him in his naval uniform. But my friend dared me to say ‘yes’ so I did.” He says: “We had 10 days to arrange a wedding and I had £20 in my pocket. I was 20 and Veronica was 18. Veronica’s parents hosted the reception in their front room. We had a buffet, wedding cake, crates of beer and Babycham.” She adds: “Afterwards, my sister slept at mum and dad’s while we stayed at her house for two nights. Then Frank went to sea again.” The couple’s daughter, Deborah, a former London City Ballet dancer, now a dance teacher, was born three years later. Veronica adds: “Frank and I always work together as a team. We share and discuss everything. Frank is always at my side.”
Maggie and Peter Burton
Maggie and Peter Burton have enjoyed more than 50 cruises in 25 years. The cruise-crazy couple, who live in Leicester, are celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary, this year. Sadly, former building company contracts manager, Peter, 79, developed dementia 16 years ago, following a stroke. His wife, Maggie, 78, who worked for British Gas, and is her husband’s carer, says: “Although Peter suffers from dementia now, we both find the relaxation on cruising holidays really benefits us.” For their wedding in 1959, Maggie wore a white lace, ballerina-length dress and stiletto-heeled shoes.
While they lived in it, the couple worked on their first house, a terraced property, for 12 months, to make it more comfortable. Maggie explains: “But we still had an outside toilet and lino on the floor. We stayed there for seven years. “There was no fridge or central heating. Sometimes, in the winter there was ice inside the windows. “We had a twin-tub washing machine but I had to soak our babies’ nappies in a bucket.” Maggie feels that, today, marriage is often taken too lightly and that divorce is too easy.
“People walk away because they think the grass is greener. But someone else isn’t necessarily the answer. “Tolerance, kindness and loyalty are the qualities that make a good marriage.” The couple have two daughters, five grandchildren, and a 17-month-old great-granddaughter, Ava. Peter says: “She smiles every time she sees me.”
David and Ann Weatherly
Because her husband’s job as a civil engineer meant him living in the Middle East for much of the time over 20 years, Ann Weatherly had the main responsibility for bringing up their four children. Ann, 80, and David, 86, of Newcastle, were married in church on a rainy February day in 1959. She wore a white brocade, hand-made gown and carried lily-of-the valley, stephanotis and roses. Former secretary, Ann says: “We lived in rented accommodation to start with. We had one good carpet and walked on floorboards in the other rooms. It was a long time before we got a television and we didn’t have a fridge until 1970. “David had to complete his National Service, and much later, when he was working in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, their eldest son, Michael, went out to stay with his dad for six to eight weeks during the school summer holidays. David explains: “It was good for him to experience a different culture, climate and way of life.” Still holding hands after 59 years of marriage, the couple are firm believers in being tolerant, giving each other their own space and following their individual interests. When they retired, Ann became secretary of a ladies’ group. David joined a local men’s organisation and he volunteers at a toddlers’ group where he washes and cuts up fruit and generally helps out. Ann adds: “We have separate sitting rooms where we watch our own TVs. I like soaps and medical dramas and David likes sport and documentaries.”
Claire and John Radford
Never go to bed on an argument. That’s the advice of Claire and John Radford, of Nottingham, who booked the Fred. Olsen cruise to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, this year. Their first home was a three-bed semi in Cornwall, which cost £3,250, in 1968.”Properties like this are now going for about £260,000,” says former chef, John, 73. Claire and John have two daughters, grandsons, Jake, 23, and Rossi, eight, named after Italian motorcycle road racer, Valentino Rossi, and one grand-daughter. They met while John was a hotel chef in Mawgan Porth, near Newquay. “I knew straightaway that he was the one for me,” explains former hairdresser, Claire, 72.
“He was very popular with the girls and was seeing someone at the time. “But my friend, a receptionist at the hotel where John worked, and I came up with a plan. “We’d spotted a girl’s name and telephone number written in John’s handwriting, on a wall. “So we put shoe whitener on a little brush and painted over the name and number until it disappeared.” Claire laughs: “It worked! I was 19 and John was 21 when we married in Sedgley, West Midlands. The vicar was drunk and slurred his words while we were making our vows. He smelled of cigarettes, too. “Every marriage has its challenges, but we never go to bed on an argument. “We enjoy life and have lots of laughs together. Trust and love is the key.” John adds: “When I first saw Claire, I found her very attractive and I still do.”
Marion travelled from Blackpool to Dover via Eavesway Travel.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines