Fifty years ago a young carpenter from Sheffield and his teenage girlfriend stole away in a dramatic dash to Scotland to get married,
against the wishes of her parents.
The deed was done in Gretna Green, and this month Peter and Ann Fountain celebrate their golden wedding anniversary with their son Daniel, two daughters Kate and Sally, and eight grandchildren.
Their elopement on December 22, 1966, was classic in style. Ann, who lived in Whitchurch, Shropshire, threw clothes down from her bedroom window then ran out of her parents’ house to Peter and their Austin A35 van, to motor up to Edinburgh.
“We thought Edinburgh would be a great place to marry,” explained Mr Fountain, 71. “You didn’t have to be 21 to marry in Scotland, as you did in England. I was 21 but Ann was only 19.
“We found Edinburgh very expensive so moved on to Glasgow. It seemed dismal so we settled for Gretna Green, and had to live there for four weeks before we could marry.”
He continued: “There were so many couples in Gretna. We were taken in by a Miss Thomasina Davidson who became a lasting friend. She and her friend Annie Livingstone were witnesses at our wedding in the bungalow that served as registry office. They were so used to disturbances that the door was locked after us for the ceremony.”
Gretna Green was an experience. “There were parents attempting to grab their daughters to stop marriages, and the police were always about to stop this happening once couples were over the border.
“Thomasina (we called her Thom) took us around and we were amazed at the different nationalities,” added Mr Fountain. “During the war American soldiers took their girlfriends there to marry so they could have their way with them, then they took off and the girls were too ashamed to go home so they stayed.”
He recalls an Italian shepherd with the daughter of an eminent Swiss surgeon, and a Frenchman marrying a Belgian girl.
Brought up in Sheffield, the young Peter often travelled to find work. He and Ann met aged 19 and 17, at the stables where Ann helped out. They shared a love of horses. Their early dates were mainly horseriding or walks in the countryside.
Later, Ann was to run a riding stables at their small farm in Oughtibridge, and finally a livery stables in Bradfield.
“We started out in a terraced house in Walkley that we bought for £675,” said Mr Fountain. I used to renovate houses and sell them on. We’ve had a good life....some people say we’re joined at the hip.”
They even agree on the vital ingredient to a long, happy marriage - tolerance, and plenty of it.
These days, the couple both indulge writing hobbies - poetry for Peter and an autobiography for Ann. Mr Fountain also instructs at the Barnsley Men’s Shed - a project that teaches retired men about woodwork.
The couple made headlines in seven newspapers including the Star when they eloped. One of their daughters is flying in from the States for a family celebration on December 28.