It’s for better or for verse

Conisbrough Poet Benny wilkinson and his wife Mary, celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Picture: Marie Caley S1002MC

Conisbrough Poet Benny wilkinson and his wife Mary, celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Picture: Marie Caley S1002MC

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A well-known Conisbrough couple are racing ahead in the marriage stakes - so what was more fitting than a celebration at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival?

Benny and Mary Wilkinson toasted their diamond wedding day on September 12 with 24 friends and family at the racecourse.

Then the partying continued with an ‘open house’ celebration that lasted all week at the couple’s Castle Street home.

Former Yorkshire Main miner Benny, 84, is known as the ‘Conisbrough Poet’ after penning hundreds of poems relating to places and events around Mexborough where he grew up.

The couple’s recent telegram from the Queen is the third for Benny, after he wrote and sent poems for both her golden and diamond weddings.

The one-time poet laureate for Sheffield who once received a letter of recognition from the Pope, said, after the couple received 78 cards: “It’s wonderful to know we have such lovely friends.”

The couple met in a chip shop at Conanby and claim it was love at first sight. They married at Conisbrough Parish Church and have no children of their own but enjoy time with many nephews and nieces.

Benny remembers schooldays at Schofield Street, Mexborough, with Ted Hughes, who grew up to be England’s poet laureate from 1984.

“I remember his family as a bit posh,” said Benny. “He was never one of the Mexborough mafia.” But the men did stay in contact he revealed, with the odd letter winging its way between the two.

His poems, Denaby Neetmares, Strikers’ Tom Cat and Fred the Pit Mouse, have travelled the world, and he is still commemorating local events in verse. Mary, 82, was a keen dancer in her day and still enjoys baking as a hobby. Both of them help at Conisbrough Baptist Church where Benny is a deacon. he also visits schools to encourage creative writing.

The secret of their long marriage is sharing, said Benny, who added: “You need a laugh and a bit of fun.”