65 years of work­ing it out

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE - KIM NUTBROWN

Betty and Les Atkin­son know all about hard work; they’ve been mar­ried for 65 years.

They have four chil­dren, six grand chil­dren, 16 great grand­chil­dren and one great-great grand­child.

They live in Ox­ford, where Betty grew up. They met in Christchurch and lived there while they worked and raised their fam­ily then moved back to Ox­ford when they re­tired in 1990.

The cou­ple said their’s wasn’t much of an in­ter­est­ing tale, un­til they sat down and thought about it a while.

‘‘I sup­pose we have had quite a few ad­ven­tures, haven’t we Les?’’

Betty and Les cel­e­brate their birthdays one week apart. Betty turned 82 in July and Les 85, then one month later in August – last week – they cel­e­brated 65 years of mar­riage.

‘‘I was 17 when we got mar­ried. I had only just turned 17, Les was 20. We’ve just al­ways got on re­ally,’’ Betty said.

Les has his own ver­sion of events.

‘‘You know what I tell peo­ple? She got me in a garage sale.’’

Betty said he’s al­ways been a tease – that’s one of the things she loves about him.

Les’ jour­ney to new Zealand be­gan as a young­ster. He grew up in County Durham be­fore he lit­er­ally ran away to sea.

‘‘My Mum was putting me down the pits, I hated that. I went out one night to get a pa­per and and jumped aboard a ship and sailed off.’’

Les spent a num­ber of years at sea, be­fore fi­nally work­ing on the wharf at Lyt­tle­ton. He was work­ing on the ferry when the Wahine sunk.

‘‘I said to Betty then, ‘that will be the end of my job’, and it was.’’

Les said with only one ship, The Maori, op­er­at­ing out of Lyt­tle­ton Port after the Wahine sunk, they had too many staff and had to lay peo­ple off. He then started work­ing as a tele-clerk at the wharf and was there un­til he re­tired.

Betty also worked hard, iron­ing and sewing while the kids were at school.

‘‘When we got mar­ried we only had two and six in the bank, it was tough, very tough. But we worked hard and I still remember the amount of pride we had when we bought our first house,’’ Betty said.

Since the cou­ple re­tired they have trav­elled the world four times. A favourite place is the Greek Is­lands, an­other the Nile in Egypt.

They have fam­ily liv­ing all over the world and beam with pride when they talk about their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

The cou­ple lost two daugh­ters as ba­bies, a com­pli­ca­tion due to the Rh­e­sus factor.

‘‘Noth­ing could be more dif­fi­cult then that, but we got through it, ‘‘ Les said.

The cou­ple be­lieve there isn’t a se­cret to a long and happy mar­riage, just com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

‘‘Just lis­ten to each other. We have a rule – one per­son talks and the other shuts up, then it’s the other per­son’s turn. Then we stir it all to­gether and find a happy medium.

‘‘We’ve had a ball, the two of us. I wouldn’t change my life for a ran­som. We are lucky to have found each other so young and lucky to still be to­gether,’’ Betty said.

KIM NUTBROWN/STUFF

Betty and Les Atkin­son cel­e­brate 65 years of mar­riage

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