Young sweethearts whose love has lasted more than 60 years

John and Sheila Allen of Houghton Regis who are celebrating their diamond wedding on December 10

John and Sheila Allen of Houghton Regis who are celebrating their diamond wedding on December 10

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Sheila Emanuel was a 16-year-old school girl when she first met John Allen.

“We both lived in Charlton and I had to walk past his house to get to Sheridan Road Secondary School,” she recalls.

John and Sheila Allen who were married in Charlton in 1955

John and Sheila Allen who were married in Charlton in 1955

John, who was doing his National Service at the time, says in mock horror: “I was standing at the door one day and she chatted me up.”

Sheila smiles; “We just clicked, we liked each other straight away. We got engaged 18 months after that and I was 19 when we married at St Luke’s Church.”

The couple, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on December 10, admit their union didn’t get off to a good start.

John says: “We were supposed to get married at 2.30pm but the organist went home for lunch and had an accident on the way back. His replacement didn’t arrive until 20 minutes later and Sheila had already started walking down the aisle.”

Then the photographer forgot to take the lens off his camera – but luckily one of their friends had also been taking pictures so blew up his shots to fill the empty bridal album.

And last but not least, Sheila’s beloved father had died six months before they tied the knot.

She says: “He always said one of the things he really wanted to do was give me away at my wedding but in the end my eldest brother Charlie did.”

She wore a second-hand dess that cost £10, borrowed a tiara and veil from John’s sister and had a blue garter.

“She looked stunning,” her proud husband says. “She still does. Absolutely lovely – little, but lovely. I wouldn’t part with her for the world.”

Sheila is just 4ft 11in in her stocking soles while John is a foot taller. He’s the joker in the family and blames it on his East End origins.

They moved to Grove Road in Houghton Regis 54 years ago and raised their family there – son Leonard and daughters Lesley, Susan and Tracey. They now have 10 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

John’s had a stroke and a couple of heart attacks since retiring as a coach driver and Sheila suffers from arthritis.

They had a family party to celebrate their anniversary. John invested in a new whistle and flute – suit – and he gave Sheila a diamond dress ring and matching ear-rings.

She says: “We’ve had our ups and downs but we look after each other. It’s give and take. And we always have a laugh and a joke.”