DIAMOND Wearsiders are preparing to enjoy a cuppa with the Queen.
Seven couples who this year celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, will sit down with Her Majesty for a VIP brew when she arrives in Sunderland next week.
It will be the second time former serviceman James Whatcott, from Town End Farm, will have met the Queen.
The 80-year-old was a lance bombardier with 463 Regiment Royal Artillery and formed part of the guard of honour when the monarch came to Sunderland in 1954,
The veteran met wife Sylvia on the steps of Sunderland Museum. They married aged 20 and went on to have three sons, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
He said: “We’re both very proud and excited to be meeting the Queen. When we got married, the future looked brilliant, because we had got through all the hostilities and had everything to look forward to.”
Childhood sweethearts June and James Oliver first met at Sunday school at the Independent Methodist Church, in Silksworth, when they were just seven and eight years old.
They went on to marry on June’s 22nd birthday, which she dubbed ‘love on the dole’, as James was off work with a broken arm and his employer went bankrupt.
She was forced to quit her job with the Co-op in Silksworth when she got married – which was common at the time – and went on to have two children.
This is the third time the happy couple have appeared in the Echo, as they were snapped on their wedding day and on their golden wedding.
Great-grandparents Alan and Irene Clark, now 84 and 83, got together when they were teenagers and married at what is now St Mary and St Peter’s Church in Springwell.
Alan, a former painter and decorator, said work was the secret of his happy marriage.
“We’ve always worked,” he said, “I think that is the trouble with a lot of people today.
“There was always plenty of jobs about when we were young.”
Also coming to the party are Frank and Jane Hind, aged 84 and 81, from Seaburn Dene, May and Thomas Atkinson, 80 and 81, from Humbledon, Aileen and William Dawson and Geoffrey Freeman, 84, and wife Jean, 81, from Tunstall.
The Sunderland Diamond Jubilee Exhibition will give residents the chance to take a step back in time and find out more about each of the six decades of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.
The four-day event will showcase some of the milestone moments throughout the Queen’s 60-year reign, with an exhibition of memorabilia donated by Wearsiders and the Echo, being held at the Port of Sunderland.
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sixty years after her accession, the Jubilee celebrations really did remind the whole world how closely this nation holds the Queen to its heart.
“We expect that this exhibition will be really popular with both the young and the old, giving people the chance to look back on how the world has changed since the Queen began her reign.
“Sunderland couples who have been married for 60 years will, of course, remember 1952 fondly and we’d really love them to play a special part in this exhibition and be among the first to get a glimpse of it, which really will be a walk down memory lane for people who have lived through the six very different decades.”
How to see exhibits
Only 6,500 tickets are up for grabs for the exhibition, which begins with a special preview on Wednesday.
A public exhibition takes place at the Port of Sunderland between Thursday and Sunday for which tickets will need to be pre-booked.
Tickets for the 70-minute tours can be booked now. Each comes with a unique reference number, which must be quoted on the day.
Visitors will be taken to the Port of Sunderland by bus from a city-centre pick-up point and have the chance to view the exhibition in small groups of around 30.
Free car parking will be provided and visitors will need to arrive 15 minutes before their tour.
A maximum of four ticket by person can be ordered by calling the ticket hotline on tel. 520 5518 or email email@example.com.