Diamond couple enjoy a double celebration
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Surviving six decades of marriage was never going to be a problem for Gordon Shiplee and his childhood sweetheart Audrey.
But surviving 90 minutes at Wembley to watch their beloved Norwich City Football Club beat Middlesbrough in the play-off final on Monday and earn a place in the Premier League was a nerve-wracking occasion for them.
The lifelong supporters and season ticket holders breathed a huge sigh of relief as the final whistle blew and they headed back home to Beccles to prepare for their diamond wedding anniversary which culminates on Saturday night with a celebratory meal with family.
Mrs Shiplee, 82, said of the London trip: “It was brilliant - we’ve been twice before to see them in cup matches and they had always lost so we said it would be third time lucky.”
Originally from Ipswich, Mr Shiplee worked all his life as a plumber before retiring while his wife worked for Clowes printing works in Beccles until she got married.
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Love blossomed when Mr Shiplee, 84, spotted his then 16-year-old future wife at a dance in the local village hall.
He said: “I walked over and got hold of Audrey’s hand and said ‘come on sunshine, let’s have a dance’.
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“I walked her home and we went out every day for a fortnight, then Audrey went away on holiday and I got a bit lonely so I sent her a telegram and said ‘hurry home’.
“Her father was not alive so, after a few months, I asked her mum if I could marry Audrey. Her mum started to cry but I made a promise that if we got engaged, we wouldn’t get married for five years when she would be 21.
“She agreed and after that we saw each other every night - and we’ve been together ever since.”
The couple, who live in Rigbourne Hill in Beccles, got married on May, 28 1955, in the town, followed by a reception in what was then the Cambridge Inn in Northgate.
They have a 52-year-old son Glenn who has sons James and George, while 55-year-old son Stephen has children Stacey and Carl.
The couple are very close to their family and in recent years have enjoyed holidays together to Orlando in Florida with Mr Shiplee still not afraid to get on the roller-coasters in the Disney parks.
But following Norwich City is their favourite past-time and they rarely miss a match and are looking forward to the new season.
Mrs Shiplee said: “We started going to the matches when Glenn was five and Stephen was eight and we have all been going ever since and now their children go too - so there’s three generations.”
Mr Shiplee has overcome colon and liver cancer and in recent years has been treated for skin cancer, but despite this, the couple are looking forward to enjoying the next chapter in their lives.
This year’s anniversary celebrations are going to be on a smaller scale than their silver, ruby and gold following the death of Mrs Shiplee’s brother Jack Lewis.
He married his wife Pam two weeks before Mr and Mrs Shiplee got married, and Mr Lewis gave his sister away since their father was no longer alive and over the years the couples had always held joint celebrations.
Mr Shiplee said: “We just didn’t feel like having a big party this year - we didn’t want to do this without Jack there. So we’re just going to celebrate with the family.”
Mr Shiplee added the secret to their 60 years of married life: “We’ve always done everything together - she is a wonderful wife and has looked after me in every respect.”
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