Belfast Telegraph

Belfast couple married just after Second World War celebrating 70 years together

Gladys (88) and James (90) Bate celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary
Gladys (88) and James (90) Bate celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary
On their wedding day in 1949
Gladys and James with their daughter Valerie, granddaughter Shellie Morrison and great-grandchildren Seth (eight months) and Roxy (three)
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A devoted Belfast couple have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in style with a telegram from the Queen.

James and Gladys Bate, now 90 and 88, were married in 1949 and have four children, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Posing for photographs yesterday with their family, the happy couple's youngest grandchild Shellie Morrison (32) told the Belfast Telegraph that love first blossomed after a family bereavement, and how they only discovered they were having twins on the day of the birth.

"My nanny (then Gladys Torrens) was from Ballygowan but moved to Belfast to live with an aunt after her mother passed away," she said.

"My granda lived a street away and called in every day to see how she was doing, but really I think it was just because he fancied her.

"My nanny just told me today it was a couple of months before they started 'stepping out' and by then 'it was just love'."

Wedding bells soon followed on the Newtownards Road when the young newlyweds were just 18 and 20, with Rev Carson of Westbourne Presbyterian Church conducting the service on November 26, 1949.

That year Harry Truman was elected US President and Princess Elizabeth was still nearly four years away from being crowned Queen.

After having two daughters, Valerie and Marlene, they were later stunned by the arrival of twins Heather and Brian.

"Nanny told me she went to hospital to have 'the' baby. The nurses then told her she had another girl, so she just said: 'Oh that's lovely'," said Shellie.

"By then she wasn't very well and was slipping in and out of consciousness.

"The next thing she heard was that she had a boy. So she replied: 'Well, would you make up your mind, you're just after telling me I had a girl'."

Shellie added: "It was then a panic trying to get a twin pram, because you couldn't buy things like that in Belfast back in those days.

"It was tough enough, though, when you're only expecting one you get two."

With a busy family life, Mrs Bate looked after the children before working as a home help in her later years.

Mr Bate retired as a labourer in the Belfast shipyard, having held several jobs before that.

"It was busy, as my granda was working and my nanny had to cope, but they had a good support network from family and friends.

"Granda was a real handyman and would have done everyone's painting and decorating," said Shellie.

Both are now the last surviving siblings of their families, with Mr Bate being one of eight siblings and Mrs Bate one of three.

"They live for each other, they really do," said Shellie.

"If one of them isn't well in the hospital for a couple of days they really pine for each other.

"There's not much chat goes on with them, but it's funny. If you take one to visit the other in hospital, they just sit there and hold hands."

In awe of her grandparents' seven decades together, she said: "It's a very rare thing in this day and age for someone to reach their 70th wedding anniversary, as today people get together so much later.

"My granda's very easygoing and my nanny is very much the organiser and has things down to a tee.

"He just goes with the flow and whatever Gladys says is gospel. You ask him about something and he'll reply: 'Well, what does Gladys say?'

"It's lovely, they just adore each other. Being easygoing and having a bit of give and take is what they put it down to."

Still living in their own home, the couple celebrated their anniversary by proudly displaying their royal telegram to carers and enjoying a special dinner with their family.

"They've had such a huge role in my life. We're very close as a family and always do things together," said Shellie.

"We all spend Christmas together, even though there's so many of us. I would have stayed with my nanny quite a bit growing up and always enjoyed trips into Belfast for wee treats. My granda would play card games with me too."

Asked which qualities she most admired, she said: "My nanny's ability to organise everything to within an inch of her life, and my granda's just so laidback.

"I would love to be as cool as him and take everything in my stride. My mum's very like my granda, but I'm more like my nanny."

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