Childhood sweethearts Betty and Bill Morgan have always been close to one another in more ways than one. Although they grew up in the same neighbourhood at Eastney, their paths didn’t cross until their teenage years.
‘We lived less than 200 yards away from each other, but we didn’t know one another,’ says 79-year-old Bill, who met his wife when he was just 15.
‘I was coming home from the dockyard club with three friends who knew Betty,’ former dockyard apprentice Bill recalls, with Betty giggling away during his anecdote.
‘She was coming in the opposite direction on the other side of the road, and they crossed to speak to her, and while they were chatting away, she turned to me and said ‘Who are you?’. I said ‘Why? Do you want to take me home?’, and she said yes!’
‘I suppose there was an instant spark,’ says Betty, 80, who was working at Handley’s department store in Southsea, now Debenhams.
‘It was strange. I was going out with Bill for about two or three weeks and my dad asked me who this lad I was going out with was. When I said it was Bill Morgan, he went ‘not Lew Morgan’s son?!’’
Unbeknown to Betty, she was dating the son of Lewis Morgan, a Scottish footballer who played for Pompey and most famously was part of the team that smashed Wolves 4-1 in the FA Cup Final in 1939.
Betty laughs: ‘My dad was chuffed. He was probably more thrilled about that than the fact that I was dating Bill.’
While Betty and Bill, who now live in Southsea, didn’t share their respective hobbies of dancing and playing football for the Pompey junior squad, the young couple did enjoy going out for long walks, taking a trip to the cinema and coffee shops, or even indulging a game of mini golf.
‘We didn’t have much money because young people weren’t earning much in those days, but we had a great time,’ says Betty.
‘I wasn’t really bothered about boys, but there was just that something with Bill, and when you meet somebody they just feel like the right one.’
The couple married after four years together at St Margaret’s Church, Eastney, on a hot and sunny June 1, 1957, before celebrating at a café on Festing Grove, Southsea and honeymooning for a week in Bournemouth.
‘My mother said I ran down the aisle that day,’ laughs Betty.
‘I was dragged down it!’ Bill jokingly retorts.
‘I had waited four years, I couldn’t get down there quickly enough,’ Betty smiles. ‘With the weather being as lovely as it was, it made the day more than anything.’
Betty and Bill went on to have two daughters, Julie and Sarah, who live just down the road from their parents. They now also have six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
After finishing his apprenticeship, Bill’s 14-year career in the RAF led to the couple spending five years living in Germany, as well as a stint in Wales and much closer to home on Thorney Island.
After their daughters grew up, Betty and Bill took to travelling for leisure across.
Since retiring 14 years ago, they have taking up a healthy lifestyle, visiting their local gym almost every day.
‘We wanted to do something. We didn’t want to be sitting down all the time,’ says Betty.
‘I’ve been training all my life for one sport or another, so when she retired, I persuaded Betty to come along with me,’ adds Bill.
The couple are looking forward to family celebrations of their diamond wedding this year, though they’re not sure quite what they’ll be doing yet.
‘Our daughters are so good to us, and the big thing is that we’re also so close to all of our grandchildren,’ says Betty.
‘Betty always thinks about other people before herself,’ Bill says. ‘If she had 10p, she’d give 9p away!’
‘Bill’s so good and easy-going,’ Betty smiles. ‘If I have any problems, I can always go to him.’
‘We have our ups and downs, but we’re very compatible.’