It’s a milestone few couples hit, but Mr and Mrs Donald and Irene May Whatmough celebrated 70 happy years of marriage on New Year’s Day.
The devoted Whalley couple’s journey began after they shared a kiss under the mistletoe more than seven decades ago. Yesterday (Wednesday) the couple were surrounded by five generations of family and close friends to mark their Platinum wedding anniversary.
Recalling the moment she first clapped eyes on Donald (89), Irene (91) said: “I was part of a Sunday School procession and saw Donald riding his bike. I whispered to my cousin ‘he’s a handsome lad, he will make someone a nice husband one day’.”
Little did Irene know that that someone would be her.
A few months later, the couple saw each other again at a Christmas party and shared a kiss under the mistletoe. Donald said: “There were no clubs for young people to go to in those days, so us boys and girls used to go to the cinema, village dances or to the Christmas parties, and that is how we met.”
Their relationship flourished and they married on New Year’s Day in 1944, at St Thomas’ Church, in Newhey, near Rochdale, where they lived at the time. Irene was 21 and Donald 19.
As money was tight, the couple’s honeymoon was a trip to the local cinema accompanied by their best man to watch Bing Crosby’s film “Going My Way”.
“We had twelve and sixpence between us and we had to pay double registrar’s fee because we married on New Year’s Day,” said Donald. “Our families had saved flour and sugar for weeks to bake cakes for the guests and as I was serving in the Royal Navy I was able to bring lots of fancy food from all over the world.”
He added: “The atmosphere on our wedding day was absolutely fantastic and there was a tremendous buffet, but we couldn’t afford a honeymoon. Instead, we decided to go to the cinema and my best man came along with us!”
Getting married in those days was not as simple as saying “I do” and due to the aftermath of the Second World War, it was hard to get a foot onto the property ladder. After leaving the Navy, Donald worked as a purchasing manager in engineering in various different firms and their first house was a little cottage in Newhey. However, due to Donald’s job, their journey led them to the Ribble Valley in 1962. “It was wonderful for Irene to return to Whalley because she was born here, but it was upsetting for me at the time because I had lived in Newhey for so long.”
Donald took early retirement in 1987 after working nine years at Emerson and Renwick Ltd in Church, Accrington. Since then the couple have enjoyed spending time with their children – Beryl Taylor and Kevin Whatmough, 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson. Sadly, their other son, Alan, died eight years ago having suffered a heart attack.
Yesterday, all family and friends gathered at The Bayley Arms Hotel, in Hurst Green, to celebrate the landmark anniversary.
Now in the their nineties, the couple’s love hasn’t faded and the platinum wedding anniversary is something that only lucky couple’s experience. “We’re so happy. What more could we want out of life? I always wanted a nice husband, home, children, grandchildren – I have it all and more,” said Irene.