Couples enjoy a double diamond day

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Two Denny couples forever linked through their shared wedding date celebrate their diamond anniversaries today (Thursday).

Ten years ago The Falkirk Herald first reported on the uncanny connection between the Burkes and the Smiths, with Jean Burke (84) and Eileen Smith (81) playing together as friends as youngsters, getting married on the same day and giving birth to sons within hours of each other.

Now the women, who remain great pals, even go to the same hairdressers in Denny.

Jean said: “The Smiths have been our friends for years, but back then they beat us to it when they booked the Falkirk Herald for their wedding photographs first.”

Eileen Robinson, as she was known, first set eyes on Kirkintilloch kid Bill Smith in 1953 at a badminton club Christmas dance night in the church hall of St Alexander’s RC Church in Denny.

The couple, who were engaged in 1956, got married in St Alexander’s on October 19, 1957 and set up home together in Denny, with Bill grafting hard as a self-employed bricklayer and stonemason and Eileen working in Marks and Spencers in Stirling and, later, in Denny Card and Gift Shop.

They had two sons, Desmond and Alan James, who sadly died in infancy, and a third son Joseph (57) who is now married with a family himself.

The Smiths now have one granddaughter, Nicola, and twin great grandsons, Calum and Matthew.

Bill (81) and Eileen marked their 60 years with a holiday in Folkestone and then a family get together in the Royal Hotel in Bonnybridge.

Eileen, who enjoys country dancing and aqua aerobics while Bill does the garden, believes the secret to a long an happy marriage is having no secrets from each other.

She said: “We work hard at our marriage and have had ups and downs but keep working at it.”

Eric Burke, from Fankerton, first met Jean Grant, from Denny, when they were both teenagers at a youth fellowship event organised by Denny West Church.

They were actually introduced to each other by Reverend McTaggart – the man who would eventually marry them some years later.

Jean said: “Eric asked me out for a dance. He was due to emigrate to New Zealand, but after that night he must have changed his mind.”

The couple tied the knot at Denny West Church and spent their honeymoon in Perth and Aberdeen.

The Burke’s set up home in Denny, with Eric working in a local mill before spending the rest of his working life with the Caberboard and Jean serving customers at Denny Co-operative.

The couple had two children, Ian (57) and Caroline (54), and over the years their family has grown to include four granddaughters, Linsey Ann, Vikki, Karyn and Rachel, and four great grandchildren.

“Go forth and multiply,” laughed Jean.

Eric (81) and Jean will be having a special lunch with close family members in Denny to celebrate their diamond milestone.

Jean puts the secret of their long and happy marriage down to “give and take” and having a good sense of humour.

She said: “Eric has his gardening and his angling and I have my sewing and my knitting.”