Anne and Brian Wilkinson first locked eyes in a Shropshire youth club more than 60 years ago, and a mutual love of dancing and music are among the things that have kept them together almost ever since.
The two were both born near Ludlow, Anne born Anne Barker in 1939, and Brian in 1941. They grew up in the south Shropshire countryside.
They first met in about 1959 at a dance at Bitterley Youth Club, but they didn’t start courting until around a year later, when Anne’s brother was giving her a lift to a Valentine’s Day dance and happened to pick up Brian on the way.
“We loved dancing,” said Anne. “In earlier years it was rock and roll and later it became more about country and western. Brian was always very good at twisting, he’s still very energetic!
“With the lockdown we haven’t been able to go and dance, but we used to love going for a dance.
“They don’t seem to hold the dances like they used to. When we were younger we could go to three or four in a week in different village halls and it was great.”
It helped bring them closer together and they married at Bitterley Church in 1961, before they had five children – Diane in 1962, Adrian in ‘64, Debbie in ‘66, Robert in ‘67 and Joanne in ‘69.
A big family made sense to both of them – Brian was one of 10 children and Anne one of nine.
It was in 1967 that the family moved to Alveley near Bridgnorth. The three eldest children still live nearby, Robert lives in Calgary in Canada and Joanne teaches in Madrid.
As the years went by Brian continued the farm work he had taken up at age 15, and Anne went into the civil service, eventually becoming chief court clerk at Redditch.
Brian retired as a shepherd in 2007 at the age of 65 but he decided to take on a flock of his own for the next 10 years.
“Being outside with animals was his thing really,” said Anne. “The five children were really good and helped each other out, being close together they had their disagreements but at the end of the day they were there for each other.
“They’re still like that today. For both of us, it makes you quite proud.”
Today the couple pass the days doing puzzles, taking frequent walks with Jess the dog and visiting National Trust properties.
Anne enjoys working on family trees and cooking, while Brian maintains his allotments.
Having shared interests and some personal ones has helped them stay strong together, and their diamond wedding anniversary fell on April 1, 2021, as England prepares to leave its third coronavirus lockdown.
Members of the family took turns to drop by throughout the day, complying with the rule of six, and Zoom allowed the children and grandchildren abroad to stay in touch.
But Anne looks forward to being able to meet up again in person when they are able. The couple have both had their coronavirus vaccinations and hope to go on a coach holiday in Llandudno this summer – their honeymoon destination.