A COUPLE who led a life of adventure have celebrated their blue sapphire wedding anniversary.

Last week, John and Sue Knights, of Romaldkirk, celebrated 65 years of marriage with a service of thanksgiving in St Romald’s Church, taken by the Revd Ruth Stables and attended by more than 30 friends and family.

Although they have owned a cottage in Romaldkirk for 57 years, the couple, who can regularly be spotted in the village k or on the Scarlet Band bus heading to Barney, led a colourful life in India, Ceylon, and Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s.

Having met Sue while out beagling at Oxford University, John’s first job meant moving to Calcutta where he took up a post with the P&O Group as a shipping agent.

All was going well until he was told his initial salary would not be sufficient to allow him to bring Sue with him. Over two years, the couple wrote daily letters to each other and each Christmas splashed out on a three- minut phone call which required booking three months in advance and cost £7.

Finally on October 23, 1954, they married in St Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta, Sue having bought her wedding dress in Marshall and Snelgrove, Harrogate, and sailed for two weeks out to India.

At the service, local shipping agents and friends made up the numbers and appeared in wedding photographs as the journey from the UK was too expensive for their parents and family.

John’s father, Revd A C Knights, who had himself been a missionary in South Africa, held a service simultaneously in his parish in Derbyshire, attended by both sets of parents and family.

Following their stint in India, and later Ceylon, the couple headed to Hong Kong in 1959 with two additions to the family – Andrew and Charles. Among his many duties, John would frequently have to greet ships in Hong Kong harbour at 3am, climbing up rope ladders in the dark with a briefcase containing thousands of dollars to pay the crew.

An ominous highlight of their time there was typhoon Mary which struck Hong Kong on June 8, shortly after they arrived. The typhoon was later classified as the worst to hit the island since 1937. At one point John could be spotted on the flat roof of their block of flats, clearing away debris from the drain to enable the collecting water to escape.

With John busy all day in the P&O office down on the waterfront, Sue decided to join the YWCA where she enrolled for an oil painting class.

On one memorable occasion she placed her still-life painting of fruit on a bench at the end of class as instructed and went to clean her brushes. Much to her amusement, a Chinese lady wearing a very tight cheongsam entered the room and sat down on top of her picture, making a perfect imprint of apples and oranges across her bottom.

Returning to the UK in 1966, the couple retrained as teachers. These were probably their golden years, working together during the day and sharing their passion for gardening in their time off in between sewing on Cub and Brownie badges.

Their last posting was to the Downs School, in Herefordshire, where they were thrilled to live in a schoolhouse overlooking the very garden that had inspired WH Auden’s poem Their Lonely Betters’ Each long weekend, half term, and holiday they would drive to Romaldkirk, always the centre of their world.

In retirement they have maintained a large garden in Romaldkirk, only calling in help over the last year as they are now in their early 90s

For many years John was the organist in Romaldkirk Church and Sue was involved in the Sunday School. There is no doubt that all those thousands of hours in their garden are directly responsible for their healthy and fulfilled lives.

Knowing the Queen sends a message on the 60th, 65th, and 70th anniversaries, I can’t imagine them not going for all three.

By Charles Knights