A WELLINGTON couple have received royal recognition after celebrating 65 years of marriage.

Malcom South, 88, and his wife Patrica, 84, marked their ‘Blue Sapphire’ wedding anniversary on March 21 with friends and family.

The couple received a letter from Buckingham Palace, which included the warm wishes of King Charles and Queen Camilla on reaching the the marital milestone.

Malcolm and Patrica met in Taunton in 1957, after he had just returned from National Service duty in Malaysia. Malcolm spotted Patricia walking with her friends and said it was ‘love at first sight’ before seeking her out at the former Empire Dance Hall where the pair danced the Jive to Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets.

At the time Patricia was working in the former International Stores, now an Indian restaurant, in Wellington, and Malcolm, who then lived in Taunton, returned to his job on the railway after being discharged from the army.

The couple would later move to Birmingham with Malcom’s work, where they remained for 17 years as he worked as a general manager for a number of stores. Together they have three children and two grandchildren. The couple agreed the children were their “proudest accomplishment.”

After the birth of the couple’s first child, Patricia left her job to become a stay at home mother, before returning to work to help pay for all three children to attend Wellington School, after Malcom’s work brought them back to the town. Patricia said while there were happy times in the West Midlands, she always wanted to ‘come home’.

She said: “I aways wanted to come home, I had happy times in Birmingham – not at first because it was a bit of a shock going to the black country when you’ve been used to Wellington.”

Malcolm and Patricia have been living in their Wellington home since 1978, and keep busy with ‘all consuming’ gardening. Patricia had been a keen member of a number of local fitness clubs, until she said recent hip operations restricted her from bending and carrying.

Asked about the secret to a long and happy marriage, Malcom said: “I’m a grumpy little devil at times but if the person who you are married to is able to take a little bit of grief now and again that’s the answer.”

Patricia added: “I think give and take is what he’s trying to say.” - “I give and Pat takes,” Malcolm joked.

With fewer young people getting married than previous generations, the couple disagreed about whether the next generation should be encouraged to tie the knot. Patricia said: “I was always adamant it was the right thing to do but I’ve changed my mind over the years – they don’t last for five minutes and you have all the problems with the children, but if they’re not married it’s much easier, there’s no legal rubbish to go through.”

But Malcolm maintained marriage was key for stability: “Like with anything you have to have stability, marriage is part of the anchor of society, and without it things start breaking away.“