‘St Valentine gave us 50 years of true love’

Tom and Jean McAlister, who got together 50 years ago, after he sent her an anonymous valentines card.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (110525-7)
Tom and Jean McAlister, who got together 50 years ago, after he sent her an anonymous valentines card. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (110525-7)
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A LOVED-UP couple whose relationship started with an anonymous Valentine’s card are still together more than 50 years on.

Tom McAlister, 71, and his wife Jean, 68, from Waterlooville, met in 1960 in Singapore while Tom was serving on HMS Albert and Jean’s father worked in the navy dockyard there.

The pair first laid eyes on each other in a cinema and a young Tom asked Jean if she could take him into the pictures on a date.

Jean joked she had only $1.20 so could not afford to and the pair went their separate ways.

Shortly after, she received a Valentine’s card without a name but instantly realised who her secret admirer was when she noticed $1.20 drawn onto the pocket of one of the characters featured on the card.

Every year since then Jean gets the card out to reminisce about how it all started.

She said: ‘It made me giggle, he was just playing with me and being daft, and I liked that. We started courting after that and on the first date he asked me to marry him.

‘He did the same on every date after that, and after three weeks of it, I agreed.

‘He asked my dad for my hand in marriage that same night and my dad agreed – they got on really well because they were both in the navy.’

Days later Tom’s deployment ended and he was sent back to Portsmouth but the couple continued to write to each other.

Desperately missing her sailor, Jean flew home early and within nine months the couple had married in Fareham.

Jean said: ‘My family were still in Singapore and Tommy’s were in Ireland so we didn’t have any witnesses so Tommy went outside and borrowed two workmen who were on a building site nearby.

‘We didn’t even think about witnesses, I had a letter from my mum and dad saying that I could get married and my birth certificate and I thought that would be enough.

‘We didn’t even have any money, we only had £3 between us to get the bus there and back and Tommy gave £1 each to the two workmen.’

The pair celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on January 30 and they say life has never been sweeter.

Jean added: ‘I always knew it would last – we are great friends and do everything together, we’re happier now than we have ever been.

‘Life is still as good now than it ever has been and it’s all thanks to responding to a Valentine’s card from a young sailor boy and every year that card goes back on my mantelpiece.’