Golden wedding celebration for Portsmouth couple

Peter and Penny Thurgill, at their Widley home and, inset, on their wedding day. Picture: Rachel Jones
Peter and Penny Thurgill, at their Widley home and, inset, on their wedding day. Picture: Rachel Jones
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Snow drifts and closed roads weren’t enough to stop Peter Thurgill visiting fiancée Penny every week during the freezing winter of 1962/63.

Peter would brave the weather to drive from his Hertfordshire home to the Cambridgeshire RAF base where Penny worked.

And if the snow got in the way, he and other motorists simply helped to move it.

‘It was only about 40 miles but sometimes it took a while. I’d use this road or that, depending which ones were open,’ recalls Peter.

‘I was coming back one Sunday night, though, and the road was blocked. The snow ploughs were trying to clear it. We all ended up getting out of our cars to lift a Mini which had been completely buried by snow and was blocking the road.’

All the effort was worth it as Peter and Penny have now been married for 50 years. The couple, who live in Widley, celebrated their golden wedding this weekend.

Peter, 74, and Penny, 70, met while they both worked at the Cambridgeshire RAF base. She worked in the Post Office and he was doing national service in the RAF police.

Penny had to fetch the post from the gate one morning when Peter was on duty, but it was early and she was hardly prepared to meet her future husband.

‘I still had big rollers in my hair and had put my beret on top,’ she laughs.

They met again at a dance and Peter proposed just a few months later before he was demobbed.

Penny grew up in the Portsmouth area and the couple were married at St Peter and St Paul Church in Wymering.

Like most young couples at the time, they had limited resources and couldn’t afford a honeymoon abroad so they decided to wait – 36 years!

‘We wanted to go somewhere special but couldn’t afford it at the time, and then we had the family.

‘We finally went on a Nile cruise – in 1999,’ says Penny.

The couple lived in Hertfordshire but eventually moved back to the Portsmouth area. Peter, a carpenter by trade, became a coachbuilder for Wadham Stringer and ended up an inspection quality manager. Penny was manager of the UK sales department at a fabric company.

They used to buy, do up and show Morris Minors and now run a group tending the grass and bushes around graves at Christ Church in Portsdown.

They say their marriage has worked because of tolerance and shared interests, but Peter adds smiling: ‘I just do what I’m told really.’