Diamond day for Findon Valley couple

Born within a mile of each other, Alan and Coleen Marshall met as teenagers and have been married for 60 years.

Alan and Coleen Marshall celebrate their diamond wedding today. Picture: Derek Martin DM17736115a
Alan and Coleen Marshall celebrate their diamond wedding today. Picture: Derek Martin DM17736115a

Their birthdays are 14 days apart, so its seems destiny that they should meet at The Regent dance hall in Brighton when Alan was 19 and Coleen 17.

It was just a glance that brought them together, too.

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Alan explained: “I went to the dance with my best mate at school. I saw this face of a lady literally through a gap. I just turned to my mate and said that lady is very nice.

Alan and Coleen were married at St Mary's Church, Broadwater, on July 27, 1957

“I asked her to dance and it all went from there.”

They were married two years later, at St Mary’s Church in Broadwater, on July 27, 1957.

Alan, who was born in Thackeray Road, East Worthing, was an electrician in the Royal Navy. He left his first job as a carpenter after hearing about his friend John’s life at sea.

Alan recalled: “When he came home from the Navy, he said the food was good and the money was good, so I went straight down to the recruitment office.”

Alan and Coleen were married at St Mary's Church, Broadwater, on July 27, 1957

Coleen, who was born in Brougham Road, East Worthing, was a nurse, a job she left when she got married but returned to when the children had grown up. She worked as a district nurse for 20 years and daughter Karen Franklin followed the same career.

Coleen said: “I loved my job and Karen loves it as well.”

Their son, Victor, is the professional standards co-ordinator for the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales. He led the implementation of the new police complaints system in 2003 and was awarded an OBE in 2010.

Coleen, 79, said: “We have got a very, very close family all around, which we are most thankful for. We have been good for each other. We have a good rapport.”

Alan, 81, added: “We have been very lucky. It has been quite a good life really.

“I had a bad spell healthwise for four years and Coleen took over everything. She is that sort of person. She has been lovely all our married life.”

Everything could have been so different, though, as Alan was heavily involved in the hydrogen bomb tests on Christmas Island in the late 1950s.

He was one of those nearest to the first bomb explosion and ended up with a hole in his kidney, partly due to the atomic tests and partly due to the searing heat in the Australian territory.

Alan said: “I was shipped to Hawaii. The Americans found out what was wrong when the British couldn’t. It was not necessarily because of the hydrogen bomb, the heat was 100 odd degrees.”

Invalided, he bought himself out of the Navy and had to have an operation to have part of the kidney removed. With the help of the Royal British Legion, he was able to win his case for compensation.

He joined Seeboard in Worthing as an electrician and worked there until he retired at the age of 60.

Alan is bit of a home bird, while Coleen is a member of Findon Village WI and enjoys crafts, reading and theatre – appropriately, as her brother Trevor Payne is the man behind the popular musical That’ll Be The Day.

The couple, of Lime Tree Avenue, Findon Valley, will be celebrating with a party for about 40 people at All Saints’ Church hall, Findon Valley, on Saturday.

They have five grandchildren, two of which are still at school. Two of Karen’s children work in television, Joe Franklin as a cameraman for Emmerdale and Ben Franklin as a BBC researcher. Her other son, William Franklin, is a teacher in Brighton.