Good old-fashioned love story that has lasted 60 years for Lea couple

Douglas and Merle Austin, of Gainsborough Road, Lea, cut the celebration cake at their diamond wedding party on New Years Day.
Douglas and Merle Austin, of Gainsborough Road, Lea, cut the celebration cake at their diamond wedding party on New Years Day.

A good, old-fashioned love story has blossomed into 60 years of happy marriage for Lea couple, Douglas and Merle Austin.

Douglas, 85, and Merle, 82, of Gainsborough Road, heralded the start of 2017 by celebrating their diamond wedding with a party for extended family at Mount Pleasant Hotel in Bawtry on New Year’s Day.

“It was a wonderful day that had a real wow factor,” said daughter Susan Lugg, 58, who also lives on Gainsborough Road. “All four generations of the family were there, and relatives travelled from across the country to attend.”

The celebrations can be traced back to September 1954 when the couple first met at an officers’ mess autumn ball at RAF Scampton. Merle (nee Woodward), who lived in Cardiff, had been invited by her sister, Beryl, whose husband, Reg, an air traffic controller at Scampton, was asked to find his sister-in-law an escort for the ball. That escort turned out to be Douglas, who was also in the RAF as a pilot officer.

“It was love at first sight,” said Susan. “Their first date was at the cinema to watch the romantic film, ‘Three Coins In The Fountain’, and they were married in Cardiff on January 5, 1957.”

By then, Douglas had left the RAF and was was working for EMI Electronics as an engineer dealing with military airborne radar systems. In 1968, he decided to pursue an academic career and gained a degree in electronic engineering at Leicester Polytechnic, where he became a lecturer until retiring in 1992.

Merle had obtained a degree of her own back in 1956 at Cardiff University after studying pharmacy. She worked in both hospital and retail pharmacy.

As well as Susan, who is married to Matthew, the couple have a 56-year-old son, Michael Austin, who lives in Northumberland with wife Pauline. There are six grandchildren -- James Lugg (wife Rebecca), Rupert Lugg (wife Lianne), Dr Sebastian Lugg (wife Neha), Isabelle Lugg, Alex Austin and Julian Austin -- and four great-grandchildren, Francesca, Reuben, Aoife and Molly Lugg.

After retirement, Douglas and Merle moved from Leicester, where they had been living for about 20 years, to Lea, where they built a bungalow at the back of the Lugg family home.

Douglas is interested in music and has spent time helping out at the primary school in the village. He is also treasurer of the Lea Art Group, which has 17 members and meets every Monday afternoon. Merle is keen on reading, encompassing a wide range of subjects, and is a regular provider of birthday and celebration cakes!

On their big day, the couple received a special card from the Queen to mark the milestone.