A CHANCE meeting between two young people in Pickering Market Place led to a lifelong romance which was being celebrated today when Eric and Betty Richardson mark their diamond wedding.

Both aged 80 – their birthdays are only ten days apart – the couple met when Eric, home on leave from the Merchant Navy, was looking round the Market Place with a friend. They got talking to Betty who was on her lunch-break from her job at a grocery store and the pair hit it off.

Later, when they decided to marry, it had to be a rushed affair at Malton Register Office because they only had two weeks before Eric had to go back to sea for an 18-month spell, explained Betty.

Eric served his time as a baker before joining up and went into catering on board ship, where he was to be promoted to chief steward.

After several years at sea, he decided to look for a job back on dry land and became a lorry driver for S A Bell, of Malton, and later Turnbulls, at Wrelton, before becoming manager of the Pickering ironmongers and builders’ merchants, George Cooper.

Betty worked in several grocery stores in Pickering and was working up to the age of 70.

Gardening is Eric’s main hobby in retirement. He has two allotments and a garden where he grows produce for sale. When he’s not busy outdoors, he enjoys socialising at Pickering Working Men’s Club.

Betty is a bingo enthusiast, and usually plays twice a week.

The couple, who live in Ruffa Lane, Pickering, have a son and three daughters, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “We’ve spent years as babysitters,” laughed Betty.

They will be celebrating their milestone with a dinner party.