It’s Leyland’s longest married couple

John and Roma Emmerton with the gifts from Asda. They have been married for 70 years
John and Roma Emmerton with the gifts from Asda. They have been married for 70 years

Two weeks after they were wed, John and Roma Emmerton were separated when he was shipped abroad, but more than 1,000 letters later, they were reunited, and lived happily ever after.

The pair, who live in Mardale Crescent, met on a Blackpool pier in the 1940s, when John, then 19, asked Roma, then 17, to dance to a song called Amor – which is Roma spelled backwards!

“I was a young airman wandering around Blackpool, footloose and fancy-free,” he said. “The pier had a dancefloor and full orchestra in those days, and I was a bit of a poser, smoking a pipe.

“I walked towards where Roma was sitting, to light my pipe, and realised I’d left my matches at home.

“I had to ask her for one. ”

Roma handed over her last match from the box, and the rest was history.

John, 90, added: “We started courting, and a year later, in July 1942, we were married.

“We didn’t get chance to have a honeymoon, because I was shipped to South East Asia a couple of weeks later, and we were forced to be apart for nearly four years.

“I wrote to Roma every night, more than 1,000 letters, and when I came home, we started courting again.”

While they were separated, Roma worked in the mills, and continued to go out dancing with her friend Sheila.

The pair went on to have two sons, Tony, now 65, and Mark, 50, along with five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

They moved to Leyland in 1961 to settle down, after John moved the family around during his time in the police force.

He was an inspector at Leyland, while Roma did various jobs in the food industry, such as waitressing and cooking.

She still enjoys preparing meals, and makes bread for family and neighbours three times a week.

The couple also enjoy playing cards and drinking in moderation, and John is a member of South Ribble Arts Forum and runs art workshops at Worden Arts Centre and Runshaw College.

He is also president of the RAF Leyland branch, and stewards at South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre.

Roma, 87, said: “I don’t know what the secret to a long and happy marriage is.

“I’d say it’s a mixture of luck and tolerance!

“I feel very lucky.”

The couple, who celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this July, have been named Leyland’s longest married couple by Asda, on Towngate.

Bosses at the supermarket put an appeal in the Guardian to find the town’s longest married couple for a Valentine’s Day competition, and John and Roma came out top.

They were presented with a box of chocolates, flowers, a bottle of Champagne, and a £50 gift voucher for the store.

People who handed in marriage certificates for the competition can now collect them.