Life­long friends wed for 65 years

The Northland Age - - Local News -

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.

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