Couple toast 50 years of marriage after whirlwind wedding sparked by husband’s chance at football career

Former professional football player George Luke and wife Norma are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.
Former professional football player George Luke and wife Norma are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

A couple who had a whirlwind wedding so the groom could launch his international football career will today mark half a century of dedication to each other.

George Luke, from Hetton, was playing for Chelsea when he got the call to say he was being sold to Durban City in South Africa, sparking the swift ceremony so that he and girlfriend Norma Lawson could embark on the adventure together.

The front page on the day George Luke and Norma Lawson got married at Easington Registry Office.

The front page on the day George Luke and Norma Lawson got married at Easington Registry Office.

Now the couple are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary surrounded by their friends and family.

Eppleton School pupil George played for England’s Schoolboys and first signed for Newcastle at the age of 15, signing for the London side two years later and then on to the South African team when the midfielder turned 19.

He and Norma, who went to Houghton Grammar School and is from Murton, had met at a boys’ club dance in his home village.

George played his final game for Cheslea, they travelled home to marry at the register office in Easington the next day and then set off for South Africa hours later following a reception at Ramside Hall and send off at Durham railway station.

For us it’s an honour and I love Norma more and more every day.

George Luke

The story of their nuptials appeared on the front of the Echo on the same day as they exchanged vows.

They remained in South Africa until 1976, with George also playing for Highlands Park in Johannesburg, and later playing in Ireland before he retired at 33, and they settled in Hetton.

George, 69, said: “Durban approached Chelsea and asked if I was available.

“My dad, during the war, had seen Durban and he told me it was like a paradise and that helped convince me to see what it was like.

The front page story about George and Norma Luke's wedding.

The front page story about George and Norma Luke's wedding.

“We got married quickly, given how fast the deal was made.

“We were on the front page of the paper with a big photo and I had no idea that was going to happen.

“We were just finishing lunch at the Ramside and somebody came in with the paper.

“It was an exciting time for us, going to live 7,000 miles away, and we had no idea at that time what it was going to be like, and Durban was a great place to live and have a playing career.

“I think it’s fantastic we’ve reached 50 years together.

“When you tell people, they say that’s unusual for this day and age.

“For us it’s an honour and I love Norma more and more every day.”

George, who runs Gateshead construction firm Red Box Estates, and Norma, 69, who trained as a teacher, are parents to Gavin, 49, and Clare, 45.

Gavin and wife Diane, 45, are parents to Abbie, 25, Emma, 20, and Sophie, 14, and Abbie and partner Jamie Mustard have a son, three-year-old Kai Luke-Mustard, with Clare’s partner Kim also joining in the celebrations to mark the occasion.