Nelson couple share secret of 70-year marriage

Tom and Joan Bithell who are celebrating their platinum wedding anniversary.
Tom and Joan Bithell who are celebrating their platinum wedding anniversary.
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A COUPLE in Nelson celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary on Wednesday after a remarkable 70 years of marriage.

Tom and Joan Bithell, who have lived on Railway Street for the last 23 years, met while working for the Weston Biscuit Company in Adlington near Chorley in 1939.

The pair, aged 92 and 89 respectively, tied the knot at St Peter’s Congregational Church in Hindley near Wigan on May 9th, 1942 before enjoying a week’s honeymoon in Bispham, describing it as an “absolutely smashing time”.

The couple received a card from the Queen on the big day and celebrated “quite an achievement” by hosting a drop-in cake and coffee afternoon for neighbours and friends at their home.

A lot of people have been asking what the secret to their successful marriage has been, and both Tom and Joan agree that it is quite simple.

Joan said: “I suppose it is what is usually said, you have to give and take. We’ve had our ups and downs.”

Tom said: “When we first got married, we didn’t have much. We moved into a two up, two down house with flag floors, no hot water and no light upstairs. I think it made us stronger and what’s amazing is that we both thought we were in heaven and that it was wonderful.”

Joan’s friends and family kindly saved up their clothing coupons just before her wedding to allow her to get the dress of her dreams.

Tom, on the other hand, narrowly averted a disaster as when he went to pick up his new pinstripe suit from the tailors, only the jacket was ready, and he ended up having to borrow a similar pair of trousers belonging to a relative.

After getting married, the couple moved around the North West according to where the work took them, from Hindley and Blackrod with Weston’s and to Oldham, Sabden and Burnley when they both worked at varying sites for textile firm Platt Brothers.

They retired while living on Brunshaw Road in Burnley and moved to their house on Railway Street in Nelson in 1989, becoming keen members of St Paul’s church in the town.

Looking back on 70 years of marriage, Joan said: “I think my proudest moment would be having the three children and watching them grow up and get married.”

Tom said: “I used to be a Labour councillor and whenever I was out canvassing, Joan was always there for me.”

Joan added: “Yes, I managed to get roped into that...”

An extensive family of three children; Michael, Madeline and Rita, seven grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren will join in with the celebrations in July when relatives from France and Spain make the journey to Nelson to celebrate both the anniversary and Joan’s 90th birthday.

Tom said: “They’re not a bad lot! Being serious though, we have been very fortunate and have a very supportive family.”