Nancy Kingston who will be 100 in October, and her husband Eric who is 98, celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary on 1 June. With 197 years between them, a world war and five children they could be forgiven for thinking they’d pretty much seen it all, but this year’s milestone with a global pandemic and social distancing to take into account, means they’ll be celebrating in quite a different way.
Though Eric and Nancy are unable to receive visitors in their home, family and friends still plan to be with them. Standing the required distance apart, their loved ones and neighbours will be joined in the front garden by the Blackford Singers, a local community group who’ll lead a musical tribute.
The Revd Richard Neill, Vicar of The Benefice of The Isle of Wedmore, knows Eric and Nancy well, he’ll be among those cheering them on. “Eighty years of marriage, it’s almost beyond our comprehension really, but their relationship is still so strong, the love and regard they have for each other, and the sense of humour they share is very evident when you meet them. It shows what unity and loyalty can achieve.”
When Nancy and Eric first met in 1938 Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister and King George VI was on the throne. At the time Eric was working on a farm and Nancy, who knew him by sight, asked her brother to arrange a meeting. They married two years later and the rest, as they say, is history.
Eight decades on Nancy says they are still as happy as they’ve always been. “He’s always been very kind. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we do still love each other very much.”
They went on to have five children and today have 11 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and 14 great great grandchildren.
Son Stephen says, “My Mum and Dad are quite young in their outlook, they keep up to date with all that’s going on, so they don’t seem as old as they are. The kind of people they are has always been a big influence on me and the decisions I’ve made in life. They have traditional family values, they raised their children during difficult times, when it was often hard to feed a family, so I really do feel they are a great inspiration.”
Central to Nancy and Eric’s lives has been their faith. They have been a part of their church community since they were first married at Saint Mary And All Saints Church in Meare. Eric says, it has provided them with great strength during difficult times in their lives.
“We never missed a Sunday it was always very important to us that we went.” His words were echoed by Nancy, who was a church caretaker for a time; a role she says she enjoyed as it was a “lovely church with lovely people.”
Though Eric has always been active – gardening and driving until very recently; in the past few years health issues have prevented Eric and Nancy from attending church services. But Revd Richard Neill is in regular touch. Before the lockdown he was visiting them regularly at home, now he chats with them on the phone.
“Faith is part of the fabric of their existence. Like many of their generation, they don’t talk about it with everyone; like many of their generation it was just there for them, that quiet faith and that church going was so much an outward expression of that.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, oak is the traditional gift for 80 years of marriage. So, to mark Eric and Nancy’s milestone, an oak tree is being planted in their honour and they will be presented with an oak garden bench to mark this extra special year of marriage.