60 YEARS MARRIED

IT was a mutual love at first sight when band member James Evans twirled Belfast teenager Claire Guthrie across the dance floor of the Arcadia ballroom in Portrush on April 1st, 1961.

Three weeks later they were engaged to be married and 60 years on their young love has stayed true as the couple celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary today (Thursday).

James recalls that Claire was enjoying an Easter break with friends at the North Coast when she caught his eye at the popular dance hall.

He too was up from Belfast for the weekend for a two-night spot at the Top Hat in Portstewart, where he and his band, Echo Four + One, were supporting the John Barry Seven.

After walking Claire back to her hotel in Portrush after the Friday night dance at the Arcadia, James invited her to join him at the Top Hat the following evening.

“She agreed and luckily enough there were some friends there of both of us because I forgot I was going to be on the stage all night,” laughs James.

Claire loved to dance, he says, and while he played guitar on stage she danced the night away with friends.

Such was the spark between them that James invited Claire back to the Top Hat the following evening.

“The next day Claire was going home so I walked her to the station and asked her for a date,” says James.

“Three weeks later I proposed because why miss a good opportunity?

“We didn’t rush into marriage but we thought we would make a commitment to each other because we wanted to.”

Claire was 19 and James 23 when they married two years later at Great Victoria Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

At the time Claire worked as a shorthand typist and receptionist for a plumber’s supplies and James was a service engineer for office equipment with the company Remington Rand.

He later worked his way up to being a service manager.

Following their wedding the couple lived for a short time in Belfast and then moved to Dunmurry.

However, when they decided to start a family they relocated to Harmony Hill in Lisburn before eventually settling in their dream home of a detached bungalow at Robinson Crescent in Bangor in 1977.

Their eldest daughter Vicky was born in 1965, Neil followed in 1966 and Jill in 1969.

Says James: “We would go through all of that again, we have no regrets. Life has been good and we had a nice settled life.

“Claire loved her work and once the kids were in school she went back to work at North Down and Ards Technical College, where she was well thought of as a receptionist and typist.”

Claire says patience has been a key ingredient in the success of their marriage but both agree that loving each other has been the most important factor.

The couple are celebrating their anniversary today with dinner where they will be joined by Claire’s sister Mavis, who is coming over from Manchester for the event.