Couple who met at Scotland-France game in 1968 to mark 50th anniversary

Jean Bernardi and Evelyn Swankie on their wedding day. The couple met at Scotland-France game in 1968 at Murrayfield. Picture: Contributed
Jean Bernardi and Evelyn Swankie on their wedding day. The couple met at Scotland-France game in 1968 at Murrayfield. Picture: Contributed
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A couple who met 50 years ago at a Scotland France rugby international at Murrayfield will mark their half century together at the stadium tomorrow as special guests of the Scottish Rugby Union.

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Fifty years ago a rugby-mad Frenchman forgot his gloves and asked a young Scottish woman to help him load his camera. Fast forward five decades and the pair are still happily married, with two children.

This weekend Jean Bernardi and Evelyn Swankie will return to the stand to watch France play Scotland once more.

The couple’s granddaughter Nina wrote to Scottish Rugby to tell them about this great love story and the pair were invited to attend the Murrayfield match.

When 23-year-old railway worker Jean Bernardi met 21-year-old Fife art student Evelyn Swankie, it was love at first sight.

Fate brought Evelyn to her first rugby match – Scotland v France – in 1968.

She told the BBC: “I ended up at the game because I was at art college in Edinburgh and friends went to the game. Someone wasn’t going and I went in their place in the last moment.”

Jean was a big rugby fan, so it was no surprise he ended up at the home of Scottish rugby: “I come from the south-west of France where of course it’s big rugby territory.

“We used to go with friends to follow the internationals, we’d go to Paris and we went to Dublin the year before. In 1968 we went to Edinburgh.

“Two days before the game while crossing on the ferry from Calais to Dover, I was so so seasick I said: ‘That’s finished, I will never cross again on the ferry, I’ll watch it at home’.

“And then I met Evelyn and that was it – I forgot about sickness and dying on the ferry!”

Evelyn explained the moment they met: “Jean had a camera and he couldn’t fix it because his hands were so cold. So he asked if I could help with his camera.”

Jean jumped in: “It was true, I had no gloves on. I moved a few rows down to film and I turned to her and asked if she minded helping and I just looked at her and that was that!”

Jean says he fell immediately for her eyes and her “lovely smile”. After the game, the pair got all their friends together for food and drinks and ended up at a party in a friend’s flat.

Jean said: “I spoke to her friends about the rugby game but I was not really interested, I was just wondering about her.”

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