Pearl's a real life 'diamond' for Eric

DIAMOND COUPLE: Mr and Mrs Swift with their card from the Queen.
DIAMOND COUPLE: Mr and Mrs Swift with their card from the Queen.

When Eric Swift first spotted his future wife Pearl riding a “pushbike’, he knew he was going to marry her.

Now, more than 60 years later the happy Wakefield couple are celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.

Mr and Mrs Swift on their wedding day at Felkirk Church in 1958.

Mr and Mrs Swift on their wedding day at Felkirk Church in 1958.

Mr Swift laid eyes on the woman with “wide blue eyes” as they both cycled past each other in Cudworth, near Barnsley.

He said: “I thought ‘by she’s smart’ and I made sure I cycled down that road for the next few days after that.”

But it was at a dancehall one Saturday night in 1956 that they officially met.

Mr Swift, 82, said: “In those days when you saw two ladies dancing together you could tap them on the shoulder, part them and start dancing with them and that’s what we did.

“As we were dancing, I said ‘what did you say your name was?’ and she said ‘I didn’t say’. I replied ‘there are a few girls in here tonight with the same name’,” he laughed.

“It turns out she worked at the same underwear factory as my sister Lily and one day she turned up at our house.

“We made a date and we saw each other nearly every day.

“We used to go dancing to a live band in a school hall and there was organised transport at midnight. We would leave on the bus together and I’d get off and walk her almost a mile to her home in Shafton Green and give her a goodnight kiss, then I’d walk back 2.5 miles to my house in Grimethorpe and get in around 2am. I’d then get up at 5am to go to work - all for the sake of love.”

The couple, of Overton, eventually got engaged on a bus on the way home from a Johnnie Ray concert at Sheffield City Hall.

Mr Swift, who was working as an apprentice at Grimethorpe Colliery at the time, said: “I said to her ‘I think we’ll get married’ and she said ‘it’s about time you asked me’ - it wasn’t very romantic I suppose!”

The pair got married in Felkirk Church, two years after they first met, when Mr Swift was aged 22 and Mrs Swift was 20.

It was followed by a reception at a hall in Grimethorpe with 100 guests and a 20-piece dance band. The couple then travelled to London for their honeymoon.

After living in a colliery house in Grimethorpe and then Barnburgh, where they had two children, Glyn, in 1959, and Gary, in 1961, they moved to their current home in Overton, where their daughter Maxine was born in 1968.

Mrs Swift, 81, eventually started working as a dinner lady at a school in Middlestown and Mr Swift, who had worked as a deputy engineer at Barnburgh Main Colliery, was appointed as a unit mechanical engineer at Caphouse Colliery, where his sons would go onto form careers, with his role eventually including overseeing Denby Grange and Bullcliffe Wood.

He said: “When the strikes happened it was ok for us because the members of the National Union of Mineworkers at Caphouse and Denby Grange were fairly moderate. We used to work during the strikes to keep the mines clear of water and carry out safety inspections so when miners decided to come back to work it was ready for them.”

After Mr Swift took voluntary early retirement in 1989, the couple travelled the world.

The huge rugby league fans also made a pilgrimage to the Wembley cup final for 32 consecutive years, which often featured their beloved team Wigan.

“I used to have to keep telling Pearl to be quiet as she would shout so loud during matches,” laughed Mr Swift.

The couple, who also have three grandchildren, one great grandson and a second due in June, will celebrate their milestone with a party surrounded by family and friends. They have also received a card from the Queen.

Mr Swift, who credits his wife for helping him to become an engineer by painstakingly transcribing all his notes from college, joked that the secret to a successful marriage was “doing as you are told by your wife”, adding: “It’s about give and take and sharing all the big decisions. We used to have our disagreements like everybody else but we soon forgot about them - I always used to let her win that’s why!”