A big day for us during an exciting period for Britain.
“Most of our people have never had it so good”, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan told a Tory party meeting just about the time I was down on one knee in the front room at Eunice’s childhood home in Garforth, Leeds.
And the joy seemed infectious, because an hour later as I turned on the radio to listen to the day’s sports results, I heard that Formula One stars, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks had won the tenth British Grand Prix motor race at Aintree near Liverpool.
So as a newly engaged man and car enthusiast, I felt as though I’d won a major trophy of my own. I was in heaven!
Everything kept getting better and when, two years on almost to the day, we were wed at the local church, life seemed nothing short of wonderful.
I remember turning round and gasping as Eunice almost floated up the aisle towards me in a gown designed and mostly hand-stitched by her mother. She was a bespoke seamstress who had told me drily some weeks before, “When you see our girl in her frock, there’ll be no hidden label or snipped sales tag. You can’t put a price on love”.
Sure enough, my girl – yes, she was now ‘my’ girl - looked gorgeous. Her long, slender frame and tiny waist were set off to perfection in the gown which was made from ivory lace with a floral motif, whose embellishments – so I was reliably informed – included a peplum and a net underskirt.
We thought we were really grand as we’d saved enough to put down a deposit on our house in Garforth with a five day honeymoon in Bridlington.
“Bridlington - very bracing!”, said Eunice’s Dad with a wink as he booked our wedding breakfast at Castle Grove Masonic Hall in Headingley.
But all that seems so long ago. The years of working in the bank and helping to raise our beloved daughters seem to have vanished in a trace.
My darling girl has now left me after 56 years, her lovely face and figure ravaged by a horrible illness so bravely borne in her final weeks with the devoted help of the staff at the local hospice.
I don’t want my name revealed, but must say that I decided to donate the dress to the charity shop connected to the hospice after I found it lying wrapped in tissue in a box at the bottom of Eunice’s wardrobe. I wish any lady who takes this dress to have a life with her loved one for 56 years like I did. I was a lucky man to marry a lady like mine.
Some weeks after I left the parcel at the shop, I was astounded to learn that television and newspaper reporters were interested in what I did and that I’ve caused a bigger kerfuffle in a few days than either Eunice or I ever made in our entire married lives! It can only be because people are intrigued by the unsigned note I pinned to the gown when I left it to be sold.
I’ve now let the shop staff know my identity and they have promised to keep that private.
But I’ve saved the best bit to last: The shop manager decided to auction the dress via eBay rather than to sell it direct. She received a flood of enquiries from places as far apart as the USA, Australia and even Hong Kong. The result was amazing as despite the dress having a few minor flaws, the sale netted £2,910. I can’t believe it as that’s £500.00 more than we paid for our first house! It’s very difficult for me to get my head round that. Never mind. I am elated that the dress has raised so much money. Thanks so much to everyone, I'm very proud.
(© Natalie Irene Wood – 28 June 2015)