Belfast Telegraph

The devoted couple who fell in love during the Belfast Blitz celebrate 70 years of marriage


Love, patience and support: those are the ingredients to a long and happy marriage, according to a couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary today.

Christian couple Willie and Nellie Shanks, both 94, were married at the Salvation Army Citadel on the Dublin Road in Belfast on December 16, 1943.

The bride and groom, from White City in Newtownabbey, wore their Salvation Army uniforms. Nellie's sister was bridesmaid and Willie's brother was best man.

An incredible seven decades on, Nellie told the Belfast Telegraph she has very fond memories of their special day.

"It was lovely," she said.

"We had a family gathering in the house after. We had our honeymoon in Bangor with the hotel facing the water. It was December but the weather was beautiful."

The couple met in Portadown during the Second World War and fell in love on their return to Belfast.

Nellie said: "The war was on and we as a family went to Portadown during the Blitz.

"We came back to Belfast. He was bus conductor at the time. When I was still travelling to Belfast to work in the linen factory he would meet me outside Great Victoria train station."

Following their marriage the Shanks went on to have three children – Norman, Maureen and Edwin – and are blessed with seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

On Saturday night, the family, including Norman and Kathy from Bristol, Maureen and Jim from Scotland, and Edwin and Vera from Ballyclare, helped Nellie and Willie celebrate their Platinum anniversary at Barnaby's Restaurant, which is one of their favourite places to eat.

The party for 22 was a surprise for the happy couple.

Nellie is still very much in love with her husband after all these years and explained their recipe for relationship success.

"You stick it out," she said.

"We had the same interests and we encouraged each other. We have patience and we were always good company for one another. If he wanted to go anywhere, I left everything and went. I would go with him. The house was always there when we got back."

Among the cards on the Shanks' mantelpiece in their home is a congratulations message from the Queen to mark the occasion of their 70th anniversary.

The Queen sends congratulatory messages for Diamond (60th), (Blue Sapphire) 65th and Platinum (70th) wedding anniversaries.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated their 65th anniversary, along with 2,000 other couples in the UK, last year.


10,155 couples were married in Northern Ireland in 1943:

  • Roman Catholic 2,828
  • Presbyterian 2,877
  • Church of Ireland 2,273
  • Methodist 474
  • Other Denominations 330
  • Registrar's Office 726

Source: NISRA

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