Gosport siblings celebrate diamond wedding hat-trick with their other halves

Gosport brother and sisters Alan Riggs, Betty Sadler and Patricia Fowler have followed in their parents footsteps by all celebrating their diamond anniversaries.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 11:13 am
The three couples together.

The big dates with their other halves all came within three years of each other. Their parents, Arthur and Dorothy Riggs, celebrated their diamond anniversary in 1996.

More than 20 years later, their children say diamond anniversaries must run in the family…

Happily ever after for Alan and Diane

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Alan and Diane Riggs pictured together in September 2020. Picture: Hannah Lucy Photogragraphy

Alan Riggs, the eldest sibling, met his wife Diane Fitzgerald when they were teenagers and it was love at first sight.

Alan, 83, says: ‘We met at Stokes Bay in 1954.

“Diane was with her friends and I was with mine. One of the lads knew one of the girls and they were chatting. I saw Diane and thought she was beautiful.’

The couple, who met when Alan was 16 and Diane was 14, saw each other again later in the month at Lee Tower Ballroom.

Alan and Diane Riggs on their wedding day in September 1960.

‘I asked her to dance. I walked her the whole way home, from Lee-on-the-Solent to Gosport We arranged to go on a date the following Saturday,’ explains Alan.

In 1958, the couple became engaged before Alan left for national service with the Merchant Navy.

Alan and Diane tied the knot at St Mary’s Church, Gosport, on September 3, 1960, and celebrated their diamond anniversary last year.

‘I was quite excited on the wedding day, says Diane, 80. ‘I didn’t work after I was married but while Alan was away I worked at the Ultra TV Factory.

Betty and Richard Sadler pictured in Vancouver, Canada.

Alan adds: ‘When I left the Merchant Navy, I worked at Fleetlands as an aircraft fitter.’

The Riggs’ had two daughters, Christina in 1963 and Sally in 1966.

They now have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

When asked what the secret to a long and happy marriage is, Diane replies: ‘It’s about tolerance and working together. Try to never go to sleep on an argument.’

Betty and Richard Sadler on their wedding day in 1958.

‘It’s about being good friends’

For the Riggs family, Boxing Day has always been a cause for an extra celebration.

It was their mother Dorothy’s birthday, their parents’ wedding anniversary and also Betty – the middle sibling – and Richard Sadler’s wedding anniversary too. Betty and Richard also share their special day with their son and daughter-in-law, who also married on Boxing Day in 1988.

Betty, 81, says: ‘We met when I was 15. A work colleague took me on one Sunday evening to see a live band at the Trade Union Club in Gosport and Richard was at the back playing pool with his friends.

‘He asked his friend about me and we started chatting. It all went from there.’

Richard, 83, and Betty became engaged when she was 17 and before Richard joined the Merchant Navy for his national service.

Patricia and Gerald Fowler pictured together recently.

Betty, née Riggs, explains: ‘He had trained as a marine engineer in the dockyard before he left. While he was away, I worked at the Co-op as a shop assistant. I really wanted to be a hairdresser and I remember asking hair salons if they would take me on, but it cost £35 to start an apprenticeship and we didn’t have the money back then.’

The couple tied the knot on December 26 at St Mary’s Church, Gosport, in 1958.

‘We chose that date because that was my mother’s birthday and my parents’ wedding anniversary too. It was special,’ says Betty, smiling. ‘It was lovely. We had family travel down for the wedding.

‘We had our honeymoon in Guildford for a long weekend. But 10 days after the wedding, Richard was leaving for America for six months to work.

‘It was so tough. I lived with my mum and dad but when he came home, we had enough money to buy somewhere.’

The Sadlers have travelled the world with Richard’s job, living in Singapore, Scotland and Bath. However, Gosport has always been home to them and they moved back when Richard retired.

‘We had two sons, Mark in 1964 and Neil in 1966, and now have two granddaughters,’ adds Betty.

Richard and Betty celebrated their diamond wedding in 2018 and enjoyed a family celebration.

Betty explains: ‘Our son Neil and his wife Sarah also got married on Boxing Day. A couple of years ago when we celebrated our diamond anniversary, they also celebrated their pearl anniversary.’

And according to Betty and Richard, the best foundation for a happy marriage is friendship.

She says: ‘It’s about being good friends and sharing. You should never sleep after you have words, it is better to get it out in the open.’

‘I think our parents would be so proud of all of us’

Patricia, the youngest sibling, and Gerald Fowler celebrated their diamond wedding most recently on February 18.

Patricia, 79, says: ‘We had a lockdown anniversary. For our golden wedding, we had a big family celebration but this time we just had a meal at home.’

The couple first met at Lee Tower Ballroom when there were regular dances. Patricia explains: ‘I didn’t know him at all but he asked me to dance. We sat next to each other on the late-evening transport home and he asked to see me again.’

Patricia, née Riggs, and Gerald, now 81, became engaged on her sister Betty’s wedding day in 1958 and married three years later.

‘I look back and think about my poor mum and dad,’ says Patricia, laughing. ‘I was 19 when we got married at St John’s Church, Gosport. We had our honeymoon at the Ocean Hotel in Brighton. It was magical.’

Patricia’s first job was at the Co-op as a shop assistant and she then worked at the telephone exchange in Portsmouth.

‘I left there when I was six months pregnant with our first son, Paul,’ explains Patricia. ‘Gerald did his apprenticeship with the Southern Electricity Board and when it was time for him to be called up, he joined the Merchant Navy for four years. He left just before Paul was born.

The couple had their second son, Lee, in 1966 and after Gerald’s national service, he worked as an electrical officer at Fleetlands.

Patricia says: ‘I always worked.

“When the boys were young, I worked in the evenings at Ultra and Plesseys factory.

‘Once they were a bit older and after the Gosport superstore was built, I applied for a job there at the fruit and veg department. I worked there part-time and then got a job as a supervisor. Eventually, I became manager and I managed that department for 20 years.

‘After that, I left and worked at Sainsburys for 10 years before retiring.’

Now the couple, who are great-grandparents-to-be, have celebrated their diamond wedding, they are looking forward to when lockdown is over so they can meet Alan and Diane and Betty and Richard.

Patricia explains: ‘I think our parents, Arthur and Dorothy, would be so proud of all of us now. We're a very close group and are like a team.

‘I remember my mum saying that you had to look after your man and that’s what we did. Gerald and I both put each other first.’

Patricia and Gerald on their wedding day with Alan, far right, and Betty next to Patricia