Lessons in love from some golden couples

The Matiers
The Matiers

Charismatic hotelier Sir William Hastings, who is set to open his seventh hotel in Northern Ireland next year, the Grand Central Hotel, and his wife Lady Hastings have been married 56 years.

Sir Billy Hastings and Lady Joy Hastings

Lexie and Lila Miller

Lexie and Lila Miller

Charismatic hotelier Sir William Hastings, who is set to open his seventh hotel in Northern Ireland next year, the Grand Central Hotel, and his wife Lady Hastings have been married 56 years.

Growing up in the Malone area of Belfast, the young Billy Hastings knew of Joy Hamilton for a number of years before their courtship began. Eventually they were introduced to each other and their relationship flourished.

The couple eventually married and celebrated their wedding reception in the now long gone Conway Hotel in Dunmurry.

According to Sir William the secret to a happy union is quite straightforward.

“You start off with a romance, then you get married, and things go pretty well.

‘‘Our first daughter Julie came along nine months after we were married. She was our honeymoon baby.

‘‘We have four children. Joy looked after the home and the children. When I came home at night she was the boss, and when I went to business I was the boss.

“As time goes on, I wouldn’t say romance fades, but romance gets overtaken by a series of things as the years go on and the main ingredient from that point on is mutual respect. If you have mutual respect everything will last for ever.’’

Joy, a school teacher of English and French (her star pupil, coincidentally, was George Best) resigned from her job when she got married. She explains: “ In those days a (female) teacher or a civil servant gave up their job when they got married. The four children came along in six years.

‘‘I remember running up and down between Inchmarlo and Victoria schools.’’ She adds: “ Home life has changed enormously in the last 56 years. Women are working today, and I think it’s very difficult for them organising the home and children. It’s a different lifestyle than we had back then!’’

We all love nostalgia but there is still so much to look forward to says Sir William.

“We now have nine grandchildren aged from 17 to 27 who have each given us a new interest observing their lifestyles. Business still fascinates me and Joy and I treasure all our old friendships and making new ones as life goes on.”

Brendan and Barbara Matier

Lisburn couple Brendan and Barbara Matier recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

The pair lived through the ration years and met at the Picture House in Lisburn in 1945 when they were both 16.

At the time Barbara worked at Mullan & McHenry grocery shop in Bow Street, Lisburn and Brendan was a telegram boy in the post office, working during Word War 11.

They married on January 17, 1946 in St Patrick’s Church, Lisburn. The wedding reception was at Barbara’s home, as was often the case back in the day.

As they were only 17 they couldn’t afford to go on honeymoon.

The couple have five sons and five daughters, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and enjoy a range of shared interests.

‘‘We both enjoy touring in our caravan, walking, comedy shows and family,’’ said Brendan.

Francis Brendan Matier and was born June 27, 1929 and lived with his mother Annie and grandmother Catherine and grandfather James who had a shop in the front of their house in Grove Street, Low Road. They sold mushy peas and vinegar to the locals coming home from the local pub.

After his time in the post office, he worked in Grundig and Stranmillis College.

Catherine Barbara Stewart was born on December 23, 1929 to parents Alexander and Elisa.

She lived with two brothers Joe and Gerard and two sisters Maureen and Lila in Sandy Lane, Longstone. Her two sisters married American soldiers and emigrated to America. Her father Alexander fought and was wounded in the First World War and subsequently worked in Thiepval Barracks. Barbara worked barefoot in Hilden Mill from the age of 13 until she was married.

They both are still active and enjoy walking their dog.

And the secret to a happy union?

‘‘Personalities have to be compatible, we are both easy going and look on bright side of life,’’ said Brendan.

The couple ‘‘don’t really’’ celebrate Valentine’s Day, ‘‘it’s more of a commercial thing now,’’ said Brendan, but they do think romance is still important.

‘‘Of course it is – you wouldn’t get married without it,’’ said Brendan.

But they do feel there are more pressures on young couples these days to stay together.

‘‘Yes definitely – there are many more distractions now,’’ said Brendan.

And they have sound advice for newly married couples.

‘‘Just be pleasant and kind to each other and talk through any disagreements,’’

And after a lifetime together, Brendan sums up the best thing about being married for seven decades,

‘‘The companionship – we’re never lonely.’’

Lexi and Lila Miller

Londonderry couple Lexie Miller,87, and his wife Lila,86, celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in December.

Lexie, stalwart of the north west cricketing scene was awarded an MBE for services to the sport and to charities in 2015; the pair received a greetings card from the Queen to mark their auspicious 60 years of togetherness.

He met his wife Lila at a dance in the Memorial Hall in Londonderry way back when. Lexie was 27 years old and Lila was a year younger.

Lexie said Lila’s good looks were what first attracted him to her.

‘‘She had lovely dark hair and she always dressed nice.’’

At the time Lexie was working for Londonderry Corporation and Lila was employed at the shirt factory.

They were married on December 29, 1956 and have two children, Adrian, who lives outside Cambridge and Vanessa, who lives in Carrickfergus.

Lexie has received many awards throughout his life, for his dedication to St Columb’s Cathedral and to cricket. His selfless hard work, and the esteem he has generated among his cricketing peers was responsible for him becoming one of the first people to receive Maundy Money from the Queen when she presented it in Ireland for the first time.

A good-humoured man, he quips ‘‘I should have got a medal for all those years of marriage.’’

To celebrate their anniversary, Lexie and Lila enjoyed a small meal themselves in December, but their will be a big family occasion on April 1, with his two children and three grandchildren.

The pair have enjoyed sharing similar interests down the years.

‘‘She used to go with me to all the cricket matches, and then when my son played she would go along too and help with the teas.’’

Lexie added: ‘‘I think we have been very lucky that our marriage has lasted 60 years.

“What I find now is that when young people get married, she goes out, and he goes out. Lila and I were always together all the time and I think that’s what helps a marriage.

‘‘We would go out to dine together, once a week or once a fortnight. I have her spoiled,’’ he laughs.

‘‘The only things I would have gone to on my own were cricket meetings or church meetings, but outside of that we were always together and I think that’s very important. And trust, of course.’’

And romance is still as important to the pair. They will celebrate Valentine’s Day with a meal in a nice restaurant.

‘‘I still love her as much as ever. I do. She is a great woman,’’ said Lexie.

‘‘I sometimes get a rush of blood to the head and I buy her flowers.’’

He thinks there a lot more pressures on young couples today.

‘‘Money and jobs are so scarce. Some of them are trying to have everything at once. I remember we waited three years to buy different things. What we did was we saved and then we bought the item, we didn’t buy it and pay it off. It taught us the value of money.’’

His advice to young married couples is simple: ‘‘Keep together, and go out together. Don’t carry any resentment into the next day, just make up and start over again. After all, the two of us are together and we have to live together, so I think it’s very childish to be huffing and all that type of nonsense. Try and be a man and a woman with a bit of sense.’’

And the best thing about being married so long?

‘‘Companionship. Lila is my best friend - someone I can talk to all the time. We are on the same level and we like the same things.’’