Belfast Telegraph

Joe and Nellie's secret to 75 happy years of marriage is porridge every day and no rows!

By Alison Fleming

After more than seven decades of wedded bliss, Joe and Nellie Graham follow the same routine now as they did when they got married on September 23, 1942.

Joe, who is 99, and 98-year-old Nellie put the success of their 75-year marriage down to starting their day with breakfast together at their Randalstown home.

Married five years longer than the Queen and Prince Philip, the couple celebrated their landmark anniversary at the weekend with their family of three children, 12 grandchildren and 10 (soon to be 11) great-grandchildren.

But youngest grandaughter Joanne (32) said the couple very nearly missed the milestone.

She revealed: "They would have forgotten, only their eldest son David sent a card!

"The family made the anniversary extra special for them, and we all called in at various points during the day for a tea party.

"We had balloons, cards, and I brought over a cake with their wedding picture on it. Granny couldn't get over it!"

The day-long celebration contrasted to how the couple got married in Grange Presbyterian Church in Toomebridge, when Joe was just 24 and Nellie 23.

The childhood sweethearts, who met at Taylorstown Secondary School, set off straight after the ceremony to stay at Malvern House, a B&B in Portrush, for their honeymoon.

Joanne said: "Granny would always talk about how they got married in glorious sunshine, but when they arrived in Portrush they got soaked in the pouring rain.

"They returned to the same guesthouse every year for their anniversary until about six years ago."

Joe and Nellie are one of the longest married couples in the UK, and according to Joanne it's the simple things which are the key to their lasting happiness.

"Granda always said the secret to a long and happy life together was having a bowl of porridge together every morning - and no rows!

"They have the table set from the night before, and granny still puts his facecloth over the radiator at night so it's nice and warm for him in the morning. She really looks after him."

Retired RUC officer Joe beat bowel cancer at the age of 85, and the couple live an independent life together in their bungalow in the centre of Randalstown. Former school caretaker Nellie still goes to the shops every day very early, and does all her own baking.

"She likes to beat the rush by going down the town before nine o'clock," laughed Joanne.

"Her wheaten farls are a family favourite, and she's more like a 70-year-old than a 98-year-old woman."

Family has always been the focus for the home-loving couple, who have lived in Randalstown all their lives. And with 75 years of experience, Joanne says Nellie has plenty of guidance to give the next generation.

"Granny said the advice she would give anyone getting married would be not to waste the money on a big wedding and put it into the house. She says it's just too much money to spend on one day."

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