NEWTOWNARDS couple Tom and Jean Johnston are celebrating 60 years of marriage today, surrounded by family and faith.

The couple met in their early teens over a bottle of orange juice which Tom had delivered to Jean’s door by horse and cart. Their son Glenn explained that Tom’s parents had a milk business and they used to deliver all round Newtownards. “Dad went with his mum and delivered the orange juice to their house and that’s where they met when they were teenagers.

They got chatting and one thing led to the next,” said Glenn. The couple were aged just 17 when they married at the registry office at Newtownards Town Hall, followed by a reception at La Mon House Hotel.

They went on to have four children – Glenn, Gary, Susanne and Janine – who they raised on the Scrabo estate, where they have lived throughout their married life. Says Glenn: “As happened in those days when they had children they swapped their Housing Executive house and have been in their current house my whole life. I think they’re comfortable there.” Jean and Tom worked in a number of different jobs over the years as they raised their family. Says Glenn: “Mum worked at the shopping centre when it was called Woolco and she also worked at Debretta’s factory shop and for Hoover in Newtownards. “My dad worked in the Ulster Printworks, Pritchitt’s ice cream factory on the Old Belfast Road and he worked in Hanna & Browne in the latter part of his career, managing the store in Newtownards. “Dad was always in sales of some description, out on the road working for several different companies.”

The couple were joined by their four children and four grandchildren last Sunday and enjoyed afternoon tea at the Titanic Hotel. “They loved it. They like just being with us, all being together to celebrate stuff as it doesn’t happen that often because my brother now lives in England. “They are quite understated so they don’t want a big fuss.

They see their marriage as a testament to their faith in God and they want to celebrate that.” They will be doing that this evening with a service of thanksgiving for family and friends at their church, Scrabo Hall. Says Glenn: “It will be a celebration of their marriage but also a celebration of God’s faithfulness to them.” The couple applied for their Telegram from the Queen but in light of the monarch’s death, they have yet to receive it. Says Glenn: “They didn’t get it as yet and I’m not sure if it will come late from the King. There was some wee glitch with that, obviously because of what happened.” Glenn laughs that when he asked his mum for the secret to their long and happy marriage, his dad quipped, ‘Yes dear’!