Bumpy start on a bus results in 60 years of marriage

By Ruth Dowds

A couple who met as a result of a telling off on the top of a bus are celebrating 60 years of marriage on May 30.

Sixteen-year-old Renee Hunter was laughing and joking with friends at the back of the bus when they were reprimanded by a young man who told them to keep the noise down.

Says a now 80-year-old Renee, “He gobsmacked us because nobody had ever said anything to us. He got off the stop before me and we were all looking at each other saying, ‘who is he’ because we hadn’t seen him before.

“I knew to look at him I wanted to meet him and we kept looking out for him but none of us ever saw him until about three or four weeks later.

“I was walking home from my girlfriend’s house and he came flying past on his bike and he nearly fell off it looking at me twice, so he remembered me.”

The young man was David Manton and when he recognised Renee from the bus, he got off his bike and started walking with her, soon discovering they only lived two streets away from each other, in Sydenham.

After the bumpy start on the bus, the couple’s relationship hit another pothole when Renee discovered David was keeping a romantic secret.

“He two timed me,” she says bluntly. “He was going out with another girl before we met and then I found out about it so he got an ultimatum, it was her or me, so he picked me.”

They had been dating for two years when David proposed to Renee at Helen’s Bay car park while they were sharing a kiss in his car.

Says Renee, “He told me he was going to ask me something and I wasn’t to laugh. Then he said, ‘Will you marry me’ and I didn’t know what to say, I was gobsmacked. I wasn’t expecting it.”

David remembers to this day that Renee’s diamond engagement ring cost £21 and her white gold wedding ring cost £5 3shillings and sixpence.

Renee was just 18 and at that time women needed the written consent of their fathers in order to marry before the age of 21.

“I was an only child and I just adored my dad,” says Renee, “and he said yes, as long as I was engaged for two years he would sign for me.”

The couple stuck to the agreement but sadly her dad Stanley died in January 1964, and Renee’s mum gave consent for them to be married by Rev JAB Mayne in May of that year.

David was aged 22 and Renee was 20 when they became the third couple to walk down the aisle of the newly opened Knocknagoney Parish Church, with a reception afterwards at the Windsor Hotel.

Their honeymoon in Dublin proved to be a washout, literally.

“It poured from the day we arrived and we were supposed to be there for a week but by the Tuesday we’d had enough so we came home. My mother thought we’d fallen out,” says Renee.

Having trained at a typing school Renee worked in a number of different secretarial roles until their first child, Tracey, was born in 1965, later followed by Joanne.

David, who was born in Buxton and came to N Ireland as a baby during the war, started his working life as an apprentice fitter in Harland and Wolff.

He later took up a position with the Ford Motor Company in Finaghy, working his way up to production superintendent over 32 years with the firm.

One of the highlights of David’s time with them was taking up a year-long assignment in the Far East which led to him moving the family out to Bangkok.

When they returned to N Ireland in 1975 they decided to make Bangor their home and they have stayed in the city ever since, now living in the bungalow they have always wanted, near Donaghadee Road.

Aside from Renee, David has had just one other passion in his life – the bagpipes, which he has played for 66 years having taken them up at the age of 15, playing with the Pride of Ulster Pipe Band in East Belfast.

Latterly, he has been a member of Cleland Memorial Pipe Band in Bangor for 23 years, before retiring last year.

“Renee never really liked the pipes all the years I played them, but she put up with me playing them,” says David.

The couple are celebrating their anniversary with family and friends, with whom they might just share their secrets to a long and happy marriage.

“Always let her have her way,” says David.

Renee laughs, “I’ll fight my corner, he doesn’t tell me what to do though he tries to, but it doesn’t work.”

On a more romantic note, she adds, “I knew from the first day I saw him I wanted things to go better for me. I had never had a steady boyfriend.

“I still think he’s handsome though I don’t tell him very often.”

David adds, “I thought she just looked a nice girl and when we talked, we got on well together.”