FIFTY years ago, against the wishes of their families, a young London couple exchanged their wedding vows in Eyemouth. Last week, just as in love as they were back then, they returned to the town from the other side of the world to mark their golden wedding anniversary.
The wedding of 21-year-old Dennis Chapman and 17-year-old Janet Fryatt was quite the story back in March 1962, even making the front page of ‘The Berwickshire News’, with readers taking a keen interest in the nuptials of the young London couple who headed to Scotland after Janet fell pregnant unexpectedly.
Berwickshire wasn’t their intended destination originally but, finding Edinburgh wasn’t to their taste, they decided to research other possibilities which led them to Eyemouth.
After finding out more about the seaside town the young lovers journeyed down and were taken in by Mrs Tait of 21 High Street, where they stayed for two weeks before walking down the aisle.
Last Friday, together with their daughter Janet and son-in law William, they walked back along the street they called home for a brief spell and after some secretive arranging from Janet and Eyemouth Town Community Council member Barbara Prater, were greeted outside the Co-op by a welcome party which included council members and Laurence Tait, son of their former land lady.
After catching his breath and getting over the shock of the unexpected welcome, Dennis told ‘The Berwickshire News’: “We visited Eyemouth for our silver wedding 25 years ago and it’s always a bit special when we come here as the town will always hold a special place in our hearts.
“We’d heard of people going to Gretna Green to get married, well Eyemouth is like our very own Gretna Green. When we found it was just over the border we thought it would be ideal and I’ve always liked being near the water.
“Arriving here back then it was very cold and there was snow on the ground. Thankfully it’s not quite as cold this time.”
Just like her husband, Janet was also taken aback the interest their return to Eyemouth had generated, but was also very happy to have the opportunity to enjoy the views she fell in love with 50 years ago.
“I feel very, very nostalgic being back in Eyemouth again. Having people there to congratulate us on our golden anniversary was quite overwhelming – we were told by someone that something was going on in the Co-op car park that we might be interested in but I never expected it to be all for us.
“It was the same 50 years ago- we never expected people to take such an interest in us getting married, but I suppose we must have stuck out like a sore thumb and we were a bit of a novelty for them.
“The town’s changed an awful lot since then. It’s a lot more commercialised, but it’s nice to be able to look out from the harbour again and see that the landmarks we saw every day are still here.”
As reported in the March 6, 1962 edition of ‘The Berwickshire’, Dennis and Janet were worried their honeymoon period would be over before it had begun, anticipating a rather frosty reception when they returned to Wimbledon. But 50 years on they were happy to report that the reaction back home wasn’t as bad as they were expecting.
“We were quite apprehensive about returning to our parents,” Janet admitted. “It took my mum a few weeks to come round to the idea, but she was fine eventually and us getting married was definitely worth all the worry.”
Dennis and Janet have been living a happy life in Australia for 37 years now and have two daughters and five grand children.
The catalyst for the hasty exchange of vows, oldest child called Janet, named after her mum, was ecstatic her secret plan to make her parents reunion with Eyemouth one to remember had come off and was also thrilled to finally visit the place that meant so much to them.
“Trying to arrange everything without them finding out has been a nightmare,” she exclaimed. “While we’ve been over here I’ve been texting and phoning you guys and Barbara as well and had to keep telling mum and dad I was talking to the kids back home even though the time difference meant that it would be the middle of the night over there!
“We were travelling round Australia when I first had the idea- –I got my uncle who lives in the south to research the papers up here and that’s how it all started.It’s lovely to be in Eyemouth; it’s a great little seaside town.”
Prior to arriving in Berwickshire, Dennis and Janet’s trip to UK shores had seen them visit Stratford, Oxford, Warwick, the Lake District and Corbridge and before they return Down Under they will go to see family in Norwich before ending their travels in London.
When they go home they will be taking with them a special plaque presented to them by the community council – an Eyemouth teatowel Janet was so keen to get her hands on, and of course even more memories from the town that witnessed them make the ultimate commitment to each other five decades ago.