Just days before their blue sapphire wedding, Louise and Dennis Redshaw are eagerly awaiting their celebratory card from the Queen – it would be their second from her majesty, and upon its arrival they say it will take pride of place on their living room wall, next to the card they received for their diamond wedding.
‘It feels wonderful really, we feel so lucky,’ says Louise, 92, at her home in Cowplain, before marking 65 years of marriage with a special service at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Waterlooville, on February 28.
As the eighth of nine children, Louise was born Marie-Louise Hayes in Liverpool, but she moved to Portsmouth with her family when she was four years old, following the death of her eldest sister.
Her father, Dr Hayes, bought a doctor’s practice at 503 Commercial Road from Dr Weston, who was a good friend of Arthur Conan Doyle’s to the extent that he was allegedly the inspiration behind the iconic Dr Watson character in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
‘Conan Doyle came to the house several times to see my father,’ says Louise, who was too young to personally recall any memories of the author. ‘We loved it because it was a very old house on four storeys.
‘We weren’t really involved with the surgery, but my father was a very busy doctor and we joined in a little bit.’
Dennis, who is also 92, was born at Wray House, Denvilles, and was lifelong best friends with his twin brother Brian.
‘I’ve got good memories of school in Petersfield,’ smiles Den, who also briefly attended Portsmouth Grammar School.
He first worked alongside Brian at their father’s gentlemen’s outfitters, Redshaw’s of Havant, but during the Second World War, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force – firstly as a pilot, before becoming an air gunner.
After serving as a nurse in the Royal Navy, Louise trained for more than two years at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington.
‘After I qualified, I came down to Portsmouth for a dance,’ Louise remembers. ‘Dennis was with another girl, another physio, and I was with another boyfriend.’
Louise claims, however, that they took a near-instant liking to one another.
She adds: ‘Den didn’t know what my surname was, but he knew that my father was a doctor, so one day he walked down Commercial Road until he found the plate outside the surgery with my father’s name on it.
‘He rang up, and he asked if he could speak to Miss Hayes. Of course there were four of us, so whoever answered the phone went, ‘well, which one?’
‘It was quite a start, really, but he persevered!’
Dennis and Louise’s relationship didn’t get off to the easiest of starts, however, with Louise heading straight back to London with aspirations to work at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
‘It broke my heart into splinters!’ Dennis exclaims in jest.
A few weeks after their first meeting he rang Louise and invited her to another dance in Portsmouth and so began their long distance relationship.
‘She was a good dancer, and we just hit it off as some would say,’ Dennis says. ‘It’s just one of those things that happened.’
After about 15 months of working at Great Ormond Street and visiting Dennis monthly, Louise returned to Portsmouth, got a job at St Mary’s Hospital, and accepted Dennis’s wedding proposal on New Year’s Eve 1952.
‘We’d had a jolly nice evening, and then he said, “will you marry me?” just before he was leaving,’ Louise beams. ‘I was very surprised, but it was a lovely surprise!’
Dennis and Louise then tied the knot on February 28, 1953, at Corpus Christi Church, North End. The groom claims that he felt ‘perfectly normal’ before the ceremony, but the lead-up to the ceremony for the bride was a bit more turbluent.
Louise explains: ‘I was dressed, down in the hall of my father’s house, waiting for the car, and the doorbell rang. The housekeeper went to the door, and she came back saying that there was a patient waiting to see my father.’
The patient arrived at 2.45pm, with the wedding set to start at 3pm.
‘My father left me in the hall, went down to the surgery, saw the poor old chap, gave him some medicine and said he would visit him at home the next day.
When he came back, the car was waiting, and it was about three minutes before the start of the ceremony! We did get there just on time, but the rest of the day went very well.’
The newlyweds packed their bags for their honeymoon in Switzerland, where they went skiing – despite the fact that ‘neither of us had ever skied before’.
‘Oh no, we weren’t very good,’ Louise laughs.
Dennis and Louise have two children, Anne-Veronica and Howard, but they are also ‘very proud’ grandparents of five, and great-grandparents of a further five.
‘I don’t think of it as years,’ ponders Louise when asked about the blue sapphire milestone. ‘It’s just been our life really, and it’s been a very happy marriage. Dennis is very kind, and he’s always been very loving. I suppose he’s just the person I really wanted to be with.’
She turns to her husband, who responds: ‘It’s been 65 years of heaven!
‘She’s as wonderful today as the day I married her.’
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