While most people celebrate this month exchanging chocolates and flowers, a Rugby couple sit back and reminisce on 50 years of travels.
When Edward Gleeson, 72, and his wife, Joyce, 68, exchanged their wedding vows on February 11 1967 they meant every word and particularly the bit “through thick and thin”, because, whether its been relocating to Zimbabwe or trying their hands at ostrich farming, the two have always stuck together adapting their sails to the ever-changing winds of life.
Edward and Joyce, who have lived in Rugby for nine years, first met when they were children: Joyce was 11 and Edward was 15. They attended the same school, although the boys and girls were taught in separate adjacent buildings.
“He was also my brother’s friend, and we lived one block away from each other,” says Joyce.
A few short years followed before the two were in love and dating, and shortly after Joyce turned 18, they married in the presence of 150 friends and family.
“Those days things were cheap. It was the norm for the bride’s family to pay for the catering, while the groom’s parents paid for the booze,” says Edward.
He remembers the catering company came all the way from Johannesburg and charged only R1 a head.
“The R1 back then was a brown paper note,” he says. He laughs, remembering the “booze account” came to R185.
They spent their week-long honeymoon at the Champagne Castle Hotel in the Drakensberg, “a real larney place” with horseback riding and hiking trails.
Edward was a detective sergeant at the time, and he left South Africa with his new bride and joined the British South African Police Force in Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia.
The years they spent in Rhodesia were some of their happiest, say the couple.
Both their children, Michelle and Neville, were born in Zimbabwe, but the family left the country, returning to South Africa in 1982, in the wake of the conflict that saw the overthrow of white-minority rule.
They settled in Cape Town where Edward dabbled in the electronics industry and Joyce worked as a bookkeeper. In 1993, they moved to Laingsburg to breed ostriches. They sold their house in Bothasig, where they had been living at the time, and bought a small holding.
Edward says they used to buy 50 chicks at a time and grow them to three months old before selling them. He praised his wife for taking good care of the chicks, keeping down their usually high mortality rate.
“It was a very hands-on job. We had to feed them, clean their shelters and make sure they were warm enough, but we were successful and had no problem selling them,” says Edward.
Joyce says she enjoyed farming because it was rewarding.
Ten years later, they sold the farm, packed up their belongings and moved to Prince Albert, where they lived for six years.
In 2008, they moved to Rugby, where they say they’ve been happy. They spend their retirement days serving on the Milnerton branch of the South African Association of Retired Persons (SAARP) and take the odd road trip on Edward’s motorbike.
“We just get on the bike and ride,” he says, but adds that they can’t do the mileage they once did. “When you get older you can’t sit that long,” he laughs.