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How do you make love last? Two couples reveal the secret after over 50 years of marriage

The Gilmores, from Dunmurry, and the Carsons, from Portavogie, have celebrated golden wedding anniversaries. They talk to Kerry McKittrick about happy ever after

Published 12/02/2016

Loved up: Edith and William Gilmore
Loved up: Edith and William Gilmore
Edith and William Gilmore on their wedding day in 1959
Together forever: Angus and Jean Carson

Love is supposed to be forever, but so often, this is not the case. While tying the knot has become popular again, with recent figures showing 1,000 more marriages here in 2015 compared to the previous year, sadly marital breakdown is all too common in Northern Ireland.

We talk to two couples who fell in love decades ago and find out why they are still head over heels for their other half.

Edith Gilmore (75) lives in Dunmurry with her husband William (82) and they have been married for 57 years. They have three children - Sandra (55) and twins Karen and Ivan (51). She says:

"William and I met at the Orpheus which was a dance hall on York Street. He was there with some of his friends and I told my friend not to stand near the country boys. The next thing I knew William asked me to dance and he was just nice to be with.

We met around Easter of 1958 and were engaged by July that year. We got married on July 4, 1959, in Woodvale Presbyterian Church and had our reception in the church hall next door. For our honeymoon we went to a caravan in Portrush.

William is seven years older than me, so he was 25 when we got married - I was just 18 - but it wasn't too young an age to get married back then.

At the time I was a stitcher for what used to be Etams and we moved to Dunmurry straight away. We've lived there ever since. I worked until Sandra was born, but stayed at home while the children were small. I couldn't have worked with the twins anyway. My mum tried to help out as much as she could, but she lived on the other side of Belfast, so it was hard for her to come to us. Now the children are all grown up and we have seven grandchildren.

We have had a long marriage because we've shared a lot of interests, like dancing which we still do. We also go bowling together and love travelling, so we've gone on a few cruises.

I fell in love with William all those years ago and I'm still in love with him now - I would choose him all over again and he's still the person I want to spend all of my time with."

Edith's husband William says:

"There used to be a dance in the Orpheus every Wednesday - I'm from Maze outside Lisburn, so the only dances during the week were in Belfast.

Even though Edith didn't like the look of us country ones, she did say yes when I asked her to dance, and then we started going out. She used to love going round the shops in Belfast and was always interested in the jewellers' windows. One day she picked this ring out and I said "well, we'd better get engaged then". She'd been on the look-out for it.

I trained as a blacksmith and then about eight weeks before we got married, I started working as a welder in Farrans in Dunmurry. I worked there until I retired in 1999.

Edith and I are still dancing together - we go every Saturday night to the Masonic Lodge in Lisburn.

We've had our ups and downs, but there's no married couple that never had an argument. I think our children and grandchildren have kept us together, but we're still in love. I'm not very romantic though. I don't go in for Valentine's Day, but I make sure Edith always gets cards on her birthday and at Christmas."

Angus Carson (68), an Ulster Unionist councillor from Portavogie, recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Jean (71). They have two children; Alan (48) and Paul (43). He says:

"I met Jean in a sock factory in Newtownards called Blaxnit — I was in maintenance and Jean was a knitter.

For me, it was most definitely love at first sight and I was hooked right away. I was only about 17 when we first met. I think the first time we actually went out was to a dance. I thought Jean was beautiful.

There wasn’t a big deal in the proposal at all, but in those days you had to get parental consent to get married under the age of 21. We had waited until Jean was 21, but I was younger than her when we wanted to get married — only 18. My father said I was too young and daft to get married, so it was difficult to get his consent. Eventually, though, he gave in and gave us his blessing — and I’m delighted he did. I think he was able to see that we made the right decision, too.

People did wonder why we didn’t wait, but they were saying it more about me than Jean, as I was the younger one — I was like a child back then.

When we were first married Jean was the breadwinner. My wages wouldn’t have supported a family at all, but she was a knitter and was eventually promoted to a junior management role and ended up bringing in three times what I was.

When we first got married we lived in a flat in Bangor. It was up three flights of stairs and you had to cart everything up — including your coal.

One day, I came home from work one night to find Jean and her mum in the flat. There was a pair of what they called dry boots or waders in the living room. I asked who they belonged to and nobody spoke. Then I asked again and Jean and her mother looked at each other, and I was told: “They’re yours, you’re going to the fishing on Monday.” And that was that.

We got married in January 1966 and I became skipper in 1972, which was quite quick for someone coming from Newtownards, which wasn’t a fishing village. I could be away on fishing trips for up to 10 days in the later part of my carer. Maybe that’s why we lasted so long, because Jean never saw me.

Marriage is never without its ups and downs, but it takes the ups and downs to keep things alive. I’m not going to claim that we had a straightforward marriage and that we were always happy, but we had our 50th anniversary last month and my son gave us a lovely reception in his house with about 50 guests. People constantly say they can’t believe how long we’ve been married for. Despite all our years together, I’ve never been a card man or a flowers man so we’ve never marked Valentine’s Day.”

Angus’s wife Jean says:

"I remember meeting Angus — it wasn’t love at first sight, but he just kept pestering me. He was a bit younger than me, so I wasn’t sure about him at first — but I went out with him in the end.

I wasn’t worried about how young we were when we got married — Angus and I knew that’s what we wanted, so there didn’t seem much point in waiting.

We got married in Cloughey Presbyterian Church and it was quite a big wedding for back then, with 68 guests. I had my two sisters as bridesmaids and my youngest sister was my flower girl. We went on to have a reception in the Mount Royal Hotel in Donaghadee.

We did live in a flat in Bangor for a little while but my mum didn’t like it. My brother brought her up to see us and she looked round and told me that I wasn’t used to this. She said why didn’t we pack up and go back to her house. It was my mum who suggested that Angus join my daddy on the fishing boat.

I was used to having fishermen in the family, but that didn’t stop me walking the shore sometimes. At one point we had three boats — one with Angus and one each with our sons. That’s when I worried the most and it was more about the boys because Angus had more experience. I think we work very well together and that has always kept our marriage strong. We work together again as I do some constituency work for the council.

We’re not much for romance, so I’m not expecting flowers on Sunday — if Angus came home with a bunch of flowers, I would wonder what was wrong with him.”

Belfast Telegraph

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