Lifelong friends wed for 65 years
It is not unheard of for husbands to be accused of forgetting their wedding anniversary. Allan Douglas is not one of them, although he admitted last week that it was not a difficult date to remember.
Allan and his bride, Petrecia, who were married in Dunedin on New Year’s Eve 1953, celebrated their 65th anniversary at their home in Kaitaia with friends and family, many of whom hadn’t been born when they exchanged vows.
The only small mystery last week was the identity of the person who contacted the Northland Age; it wouldn’t have been neighbours, complaining about the noise, Allan said, “because they were here”.
The couple became acquainted as children — their grandmothers were sisters — and had been compatible “from the word go”, Petrecia said.
They had had girlfriends and boyfriends before Allan proposed, and Petrecia accepted, a year before they married, and, Petrecia said they had had 65 “good years of marriage”.
Their lifelong friendship, Allan added, meant it had fallen to him to tell his future wife about the birds and bees, and the truth about Santa and the Tooth Fairy.
Their families immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland, aboard two different ships, c1860, and both could claim that great-grandmothers were born on those voyages. He, 87 going on 88, was the son of an insurance inspector, while she, 86 going on 87, was of farming stock, growing up in Dunedin and at Hawea Flat — she was actually born in Cromwell — respectively.
Allan began his working life the half-owner of a wholesale jewellery manufacturing business, still thriving on both sides of the Tasman. In the early days Petrecia went to work to help pay the grocery bill, earning the sobriquet Cash Flow. Allan subsequently ‘retired’ from active involvement in the business, and the couple bought a dry stock farm at Broadwood.
Broadwood had been a lovely place to live (for 25 years or more), Petrecia said. She accepted that according to the local definition she and Allan had never been locals, but it had been a very welcoming community, where many of the old established families still lived and farmed.
The couple raised two sons, James (living at Awanui) and another working in the wine industry in Martinborough, and two daughters. One died some years ago, but Susan has also stayed in the Far North, living just south of Kaitaia.
Both agreed that the world had changed beyond all recognition in their lifetimes, Allan saying letters home to Scotland from his grandmother had taken four months to get there, the reply taking another four months to reach Dunedin.
“By the time she received the answer she had probably forgotten the question,” he said.
Now far-flung family and friends could keep in contact via Skype.
Meanwhile, both families had achievers to cherish. Allan’s grandfather was the mayor of Dunedin in the 1920s, and Petrecia’s grandfather was once mayor of what is now the Dunedin suburb of Ma¯ori Hill, but Petrecia had the best story.
Prince Albert, the future King George VI, had managed to escape his minders, on a trout fishing trip on Lake Hawea with her father, who had bemused his royal guest by cooking a meal over a fire, using just the one pot. He had assured the prince that it did not matter, given that, once eaten, all the ingredients would be mixed together anyway.
If that incident was a breach of royal protocol, Allan’s proposal was very much by the book. He got down on one knee, Petrecia said, in a pub. “She got me drunk, and it was all over,” Allan said.
Allan and Petrecia Douglas at home in Kaitaia after celebrating 65 years of marriage.
On their wedding day, December 31, 1953.