‘Marriage vows kept us together for 70 years’

Jeffrey and Elsie Cargill at St Lukes Church in Walton on July 3, 1943.
Jeffrey and Elsie Cargill at St Lukes Church in Walton on July 3, 1943.

A couple who married in the height of the Second World War said good old fashioned commitment has kept them together for 70 years.

As a 17-year-old art student Jeffrey Cargill said he had an eye for a good thing and quickly declared his affections for Elsie Conway in 1940.

On Wednesday, July 3, the couple, who live in Brackley, celebrated their platinum anniversary ahead of a big party at the Best Western in Buckingham, where they are expecting more than 50 guests including their four children, 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Mrs Cargill, 91, said: “I thought he looked quite good – he had lovely blond hair. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. But he did impress me and I soon grew to love him. He was just a nice guy.”

At the time Mr Cargill was still at art school in Liverpool and joked he would run home with his drawing board on his head as Hitler’s bombs fell around him.

In 1942 he was called up to the Royal Artillery and the following year they married at St Lukes Church in Walton, well known for being on the corner of Everton Football Club’s Goodison Park ground.

As a young couple dealing with rationing, Mrs Cargill wore a borrowed dress and everyone pitched in for the humble reception above the Co-op Store in Walton Road.

After a short honeymoon their first child Carol arrived in 1945, followed by Pamela in 1947, Christopher in 1954, and Jeffrey in 1961.

After the war Mr Cargill embarked upon a career as an exhibition designer, which would often take him behind the Iron Curtain, and he briefly rubbed shoulders with Nikita Khrushchev when the Soviet premier approached one of his exhibition stands.

From the early ‘60s to the mid-1970s the family lived in Richmond, near London, until Mr Cargill was able to fulfil his dream of owning a smallholding and they moved to Aberystwyth in Wales.

After retiring, the couple moved to Brackley in 1992 to be closer to their daughter, Pamela, who lives in Finmere.

Mr Cargill, 90, said: “When I’ve been asked to make speeches at previous anniversaries I’ve said it’s tolerance – I think that’s the basis of a long marriage. Never go to sleep if you’ve had an argument, settle it before you go to bed.”

Elsie said a more frugal life let them focus on what was important.

She said : “I think we were content with a lot less than people are today.

“People want this, that and the other, but we were content with what we had, and we didn’t have much when we first started out.”

Mr Cargill added: “When we took our marriage vows we acknowledged that we had to abide by them, perhaps now it’s just a wedding and doesn’t mean as much as it did.”