75 years strong

Joseph and Emily Atkins celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Tuesday 24 May. 281798_02 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Marcus Uhe

When an 18-year-old Joseph Atkins asked Emily Cheshire if he could walk her home from their local town hall in Atherstone, Central England one Saturday night in 1944, he was met with a firm no.

“I don’t think so, you’ve had too much to drink,” Emily told him.

Encouraged by Emily’s brother and Joseph’s work colleague in the coal mines, Syd asked a second time,and Emily accepted.

And 78 years later, at the ages of 96 and 95 respectively, in an aged care facility in Hallam, 17,000 kilometres away from Atherstone, the couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Tuesday 24 May with an afternoon tea on a sunny autumn afternoon.

There was cake, music and even a little bit of dancing for the residents and their daughter Jane, who was one of the few family members able to attend amid current restrictions.

Mr Atkins first made an impression on Emily’s family when he was invited into her family home by Emily’s mother for a hearty meal of rabbit stew, a delicacy in the mid-1940s as Europe and the world at large emerged from the Second World War and many in the UK were living on rations.

After a low-key proposal – “we just talked it over I think. It’s not like I bent down and proposed” – the two married in 1947 at St Mary’s Church in Wawrickshire.

In yet another sign of the times, the couple organised their wedding outfits with coupons assigned to them following the War.

Shortly after their marriage they welcomed Jane to the world in 1949, and later Geoff in 1954.

The couple reminisced on holidays to Blackpool on the East coast of England, where they were treated to performances from the cream-of-the-crop of English entertainment at the time including musician, Vera Lynn and comedians, Charlie Drake and Arthur Askey.

They migrated to Australia in November 1970 after Jane made the relocation a year earlier, living in the inner South East and Bayside suburbs of Elwood, Gardenvale and Cheltenham before calling Calvary Aged Care facility in Hallam home late in 2021, where they are now regular participants in bingo and enjoy visits to the local pub.

While still experiencing restrictions at their facility, they love being visited by their extended family, including two children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

When quizzed on the secrets to such enduring love, Mr Atkins preached the importance of understanding.

“I think you keep forgiving each other because there are always ups and downs and you have to make it up again,” he said.