Tom and Audrey Blenkinsopp of Warwick Close, Spennymoor are today marking an amazing seventy years of marriage with their Platinum Wedding Anniversary.
The happy couple have been joined by their daughter, Louise, who flew in from Saltspring Island in British Columbia, on the Pacific coast of Canada, ten days earlier in order to quarantine ahead of the family celebrations this weekend.
Tom (92) was born in Spennymoor in 1928 and like so many young men of the time spent the early part of his working life as a miner at Dean and Chapter and later, Whitworth Park Colliery.
When Black and Decker set up a factory in Spennymoor, Tom joined the firm and spent the rest of his working life with them until he retired in the 1990s.
Audrey (93) was born Audrey Ruddick in Bearpark in 1928 and was brought up in a musical family. She and younger sister, Violet were entertained by their father, who was a talented pianist, performing at many venues around Durham.
After a spell at school in Trowbridge, Somerset, where her mother Dorothy had many ties, Audrey returned to the north east, and began working at the Pricing Bureau in Durham City.
Tom and Audrey knew each other from the age of 16 as they both lived in the same area. Tom took Audrey to the pictures a few times, but the pair went their separate ways for a few years before meeting again in their early 20s.
One of Tom’s passions in life was dancing and he was admired for his sense of rhythm and smooth moves. It was his talent on the dance floor, together with his dark good looks, that caught the attention and eventually won the heart of the young Audrey.
The couple were married on 24th March 1951 at St John’s Church in Meadowfield and since that first dance together, they have shared the happiest of times, whirling each other around the dance floors of Blackpool Tower Ballroom, the Winter Gardens, various hotels in Harrogate, and just about all local dances in and around Spennymoor.
The young couple settled in Spennymoor after a honeymoon in their beloved Harrogate and went on to have two daughters, Sylvia and Louise.
When the two girls were a little older, Audrey’s experience at the Pricing Bureau meant that she was a perfect candidate to become a receptionist for Doctors Corrigan and Wood, and she spent the rest of her working life at the surgery which is now known as Bishops Close Health Centre.
After her retirement, and not being one to sit around, Audrey volunteered in the shop at the Maternity Unit at Bishop Auckland Hospital. Even to this day, she still wishes she was working.
Tragedy struck the family later in life when Sylvia passed away at just 41 years of age after undergoing a heart and lung transplant.
However, Tom and Audrey feel very lucky to have travelled together with their second daughter, Louise. In 1984, she won Graduate Trainee of the Year at Harrods in London and her career as a retail buyer has taken her around the world.
They have had many holidays with her in Germany, Austria, Spain, the South of France, Italy, Florida and most recently two trips to the west coast of Canada, including a memorable train journey through the Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer, via Banff and Lake Louise, to Calgary. They loved the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, and experienced the thrill of island hopping in De Havilland Beavers (float planes) from Louise’s home on Saltspring Island to the mainland.
Louise puts her career success down to “a fabulous childhood in the caring community of Spennymoor, and my parents, who encouraged me to fly like a bird”.
As an avid sportsman, like his father before him, Tom took to cycling and recalls happy times out on the road with his fellow cycling enthusiasts.
He also enjoyed rowing and loved nothing better than “skimming the water” on the River Wear whilst serenading young Audrey. In fact his singing prowess is one of his daughter Louise’s fondest memories; listening to her dad singing his heart out in the bathtub!
Whilst on holiday with her parents, Louise made sure Tom got up on stage at the open-air Verona Arena in Italy, from where he entertained a crowd of tourists with a little bit of opera. A few days later he was able to serenade Audrey once again from a gondola on the canals in Venice.
Eventually, at the tender age of 76, Tom joined the Trimdon Men’s Choir, which was later incorporated into the Durham Constabulary Male Voice Choir, and he thoroughly enjoyed participating in many performances.
“Even now, at 92 years of age, you just have to give him a few notes, and he’s off,” says Louise.
Audrey, also from a creative family, enjoyed participating in amateur dramatics, and Louise claims her mother’s role as Elvira in Blythe Spirit should have won her an Oscar.
Audrey and Tom are looking forward to spending spring and summer with Louise, who is very much looking forward to helping them celebrate their special day, “as best as we can, given the restrictions”. Their son-in-law, Taylor will be joining them in May.