Celebrating a diamond anniversary

Mary and Harold Burgess of Dunstable who have celebrated their diamond wedding
Mary and Harold Burgess of Dunstable who have celebrated their diamond wedding

There’s nothing like a handsome well-groomed man to turn a woman’s head.

And when Harold Burgess went to work as a fitter at Maidstone & District Buses way back in 1954, young Mary Chapman (as she was then) was hooked.

Mary and Harold Burgess on their wedding day in 1955

Mary and Harold Burgess on their wedding day in 1955

She recalls: “He was really good-looking and smart. He came to collect something from my office, we started talking and just seeemd to click.”
He walked her home from work one day and the rest is history. They were married within the year because Harold was offered a job at Vauxhall. They decided to tie the knot and start a new life together in Bedfordshire.

The couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last month and say the secret to a long and happy union is tolerance and hard work.

Mary, 82, of Woodford Road, says: “We were married three weeks after finding a flat in Luton and four days after getting engaged.”
The ceremony took place at St Leonard’s emergency church because the original hadn’t been rebuilt after being hit by a doodlebug during World War Two.

It was held on a Wednesday because Mary’s family owned Chapman Dairies in the town and Wednesday was half day.

“I borrowed a dress from Hal’s cousin. It was white lace with a bolero,” she smiles. “My whole family turned up to sing in the choir. We had the reception at Cave’s Cafe, a well-known restaurant and coffee house on Hastings sea front.

“Food was still scarce because it was just after rationing ended and there wasn’t a great deal of choice. People didn’t have the big expensive affairs they do nowadays. It was prawn cocktail, ham salad and wedding cake.

“It started snowing as we left to catch the train to Luton and we didn’t have a honeymoon because we didn’t have the money.

“But we made up for it later – we visited the Far East, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali and Hong Kong as well as the USA and Canada. We’e also done some cruising.”

Mary’s advice to other couples is never to put anything off. “Do it while you still can,” she advises. Harold had a heart attack in 2000 and gradually became more disabled. He now lives in Capwell Grange in Luton, where the anniversary celebrations were held.

“We’ve got many happy memories,” Mary says. “We always used to do everything together.

“Harold loved fishing so we all went with him. We had lots of caravan holidays in the New Forest area, usually with other friends and their families. The men fished while the wives and children stayed on the beach - the first outing was always to Mudeford Quay.”

The couple had two children- Sue and Alan, who both live in Dunstable.

They also have five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Mary’s a dab hand on the computer, which has enabled her to research the family tree. “I’ve traced Chapman’s Dairy back to the 1600s,” she says with pride. “But I’ve also found an ancestor who was transported to Australia for his part in a smuggling gang that killed some revenue men.”