By Tony Whiting
A couple from Batley with a shared passion for dancing were among the first people to book tickets for Ripon Cathedral’s Golden Wedding Service on 3 October. Carol Walker (84) and husband Alan (86) celebrated their golden wedding in 2006 and attended the cathedral’s special service that year. They haven’t missed the annual service, held for couples who have been married for 50 years or more, and so could claim to have danced their way into the cathedral’s record books.
They met at a dance hall (where else?) in Batley in 1954 where Alan, spotted Carol and said to a friend “I’m taking her home” and he has been doing so virtually every day since their wedding in August 1956 apart when he was called away on military duties three days after they were married due to the Suez crisis.
That did not spell the end of globe-trotting for Alan, who soon quick-stepped into Civvy Street, far from it. “We’ve danced all over the world and enjoyed every minute of it, “said Carol. They have danced on Sydney Harbour Bridge, in Bejing ( the Chinese really love dancing says Carol), on board cruise ships and in the UK at Blackpool Tower Ballroom (of course) where they both still recall the superb sprung floor, the Ritz Hotel (where they met Frank Sinatra’s pianist) and on stage in Sheffield, Leeds and Huddersfield.
Not forgetting the Waldorf Hotel in London where they were asked to lead off in the final tea dance the hotel ever held (for the record, it was the conga).
Not even the pandemic and the lockdowns could stop them dancing. “We danced through it all in our home, starting at the lounge, going into the hall, then the dining room and round and round again” said Alan.
The couple love both Ripon, the cathedral and the Golden Wedding Service which they say they find very moving. “It makes us think how lucky we are to have each other,” said Carol.
They will be among many others at the service who are celebrating including four Mothers’ Union trustees. They are Jean Thurman, Diocesan President for the Diocese of Leeds, who married Peter in Halifax; Elaine Swinhoe, Huddersfield Episcopal Area President, who married Terry in Upwell, East Anglia; Margaret Crawford, Branch Leader at Boroughbridge who married Peter in Boldon Colliery, Tyne and Wear; and Josie Birley, Ripon Episcopal Area President, who married Malcolm in Crookes, Sheffield. All were married in 1971 and it believed this is the first time that four trustees from the Mothers’ Union in the diocese will be marking their golden weddings by attending the service.
The service of thanksgiving and blessing allows couples and their families to renew their marriage vows. It is open to anyone who would like to renew their vows whether they were married in 1971 or earlier. The celebration of many years of married life is followed by afternoon tea and all the ‘brides’ receive a corsage of flowers.