FIRST ever Adver Bride of the Year Shirley French is celebrating another milestone this morning as she reaches her 80th birthday.
The mother of two, grandmother of four and great-grandmother of four was crowned the Swindon Advertiser’s first Bride of the Year after she married her husband George, 88, on March 30, 1957.
Although Shirley, who lives with her husband in Upper Stratton, does not know where they will be meeting, she is already getting excited about a special birthday party that has been organised for her on Saturday.
She said: “I know I’m having a party but I don’t know where it is. I’m sneaky, I’ve been trying to get it out of the children and the great-grandchildren, but nobody will tell me anything.
“I’m very much looking forward to it because all my family will be there. They have all grown up and spread out across the country but they are all coming along and going to be there on Saturday and that’s going to be the best thing of my life, to see them all together.”
Shirley became the Adver’s first Bride of the Year after her grandmother saw advertisements for the competition in shops around town.
She said: “I was brought up by my grandparents and my grandmother saw in the Evening Advertiser that they were looking to make someone a Bride of the Year, and it was advertised in all the shops.
“She contacted them and one day when I came home there were two gentlemen sat with my grandmother eating her apple pie and custard, which she used to make with cloves in.
“After that they asked me if I wanted to be Bride of the Year and I said yes, and then they took all sorts of photographs of me around all the different shops.”
George and Shirley, who wore a lace dress and carried pink and white flowers, were married at St Augustine’s church in Rodbourne by a blind vicar, known to them only as Rev Greenwood.
“I was absolutely terrified. Everybody was very happy. It was the best day ever,” she said.
“We had a complete set of glasses as a gift from the Advertiser. It wasn’t just a set of water glasses, there were water glasses, wine glasses all the way down to little liqueur glasses, all with a gold rim. They were absolutely beautiful, and made out of very fine glass.”
The couple celebrated 57 years of marriage this year, and Shirley says the secret to staying together has been down to their friendship.
She said: “We’re friends and we can laugh together. You have to have a good sense of humour. Everybody argues but we always make up.
“It’s not worth arguing, and never ever bear a grudge. It’s not worth it.”
Before having children Shirley worked in a number of places doing clerical work.
Between 1943 and 1947 George served with the Kings Royal Rifles, and fought on the Normandy beaches as well as serving in Palestine, Egypt, and Tripoli.
After leaving the army in 1947 he worked as a scientific instrument operator and then as a BT engineer.