Hard start led to joy for diamond couple

Alan and Audrey Baxter celebrate their diamond anniversary. Picture: Andrew Dunsire
Alan and Audrey Baxter celebrate their diamond anniversary. Picture: Andrew Dunsire
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Alan and Audrey Baxter (nee Welsh) celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary surrounded by family and friends at their Penicuik home.

The sheer joy of the occasion contrasted with a troubled start to 60 years of married life for Alan, the son of a groom, and his shepherd’s daughter bride Audrey.

Within a fortnight of marrying Audrey, Alan was diagnosed with a stress-related illness and spent almost a year in hospital.

Such adversity provided an opportunity, eagerly grasped, to underline their mutual devotion from the start. A strong foundation was required, too, because there were other challenges ahead, such as setting up a first home in an empty shop in Selkirk made available by the kindness of a friend, but with no hot water and only an outside toilet.

They battled through to raise children Keith, now 58, and Ann, 57, and have been blessed by grandchildren Susan, Linda, Diane and Lorna, as well as great­-grandchildren Tegan, Nathan, Lucy, Charlie, Angus, Hayley, Hudson and Iona, who sadly died shortly after birth.

It was only when the couple moved from their native Borders to Edinburgh after 18 years of married life that Audrey felt their fortunes had truly turned a corner.

“Alan being recommended for a civil service job with Manpower Services was the new beginning for us,” she said. “For the first time we had a fridge, telephone and new carpets in our new home at Wester Hailes. We’d known nothing but hardship.”

The couple, who also lived in Sighthill, met when Audrey was nursing at Dingleton Hospital, Melrose, and Alan’s work as a chiropodist had him cycling between appointments in the Borders.

“We had our first date in June, got engaged on August 20 and married on October 15,” said Audrey.

“Yes, it was a whirlwind courtship but we both knew we were meant for each other. So, why wait?”

Honeymoon was a week in a relative’s home in Barrhead, near Glasgow.

Latterly the couple travelled abroad, most notably to the United States, which brought great memories including being “evicted” from the White House dining room.

“We happened to be on a guided tour when an aide rushed in and said ‘please leave, the President wants to have lunch now,” recalled Audrey.

No invitation to pull up a chair opposite Bill Clinton was extended, but the card from the Queen congratulating them on their milestone more than compensated.