Larne couple celebrates 70 years of marriage

Larne couple Ferguson and Margaret Norrell.
Larne couple Ferguson and Margaret Norrell.

These childhood sweethearts were engaged and married within days – then had to spent almost four years apart thanks to World War Two.

Now, 70 years on, Ferguson and Margaret Norrell are as happy as ever, claiming they built their long marriage on a firm foundation of friendship.

The Larne couple, both 89, were only 11 years old when they met, having lived around the corner from each other.

When Ferguson, affectionately known as Fergie, joined the Royal Navy and was sent to War he knew he wanted to marry his sweetheart.

In an extraordinary tale, he recalls that he proposed to Margaret and they wed in First Larne Presbyterian Church during just a few days of home leave in 1943.

Joking that their honeymoon at an aunt’s house in Cushendall was “only about 15 minutes”, he said the military and then civilian police came looking him as he was required back at sea.

“It was hello and goodbye,” said Margaret.

The couple then spent a tough four years apart, sometimes going for months at a time without communication.

Now Fergie and Margaret are enjoying a happy retirement together in their beloved hometown, surrounded by their four children, nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Daughter Anna Marks said they are great role models for the rest of the family, who try to visit every day.

The couple said their greatest adventure was an exciting trip to Malta 20 years ago for their 50th wedding anniversary. Family members treated them to a holiday in the very place that had kept the couple apart all those years ago when Fergie served in the war.

And this week the devoted pair received recognition in the form of flowers, champagne and a shopping voucher from their local supermarket, which had launched a competition to find the longest-married couple in the area.

Asda’s people manager Jill Smyth said: “It’s been wonderful to celebrate such a happy time with the couple as their love truly has stood the test of time. As regular customers to the store we’re all inspired by their story, and we wish the couple many more happy years together.”

In seven decades lots has changed in society, the couple said, adding they feel everyone “moves very fast nowadays”.

“They are always saying ‘There were no mobile phones in our day’,” said Anna. “One didn’t know where the other one was!”

So what is the secret of such a long, happy marriage?

Margaret said “It’s all about equal amounts of give and take, and always be ready to say sorry when you’re in the wrong.”

Her daughter added with a chuckle: “Mummy always says you have to have the last word and then walk away!”