FORMER publicans Vernon and Joan Nation are celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.

The couple, who made many friends during their 20 years as landlords of the Curriers Arms in Royal Wootton Bassett, are marking the milestone with family.

Their early life was spent in South Wales, where Joan, now 80, was a coal miner’s daughter in a large family in the Rhondda Valley and Vernon, now 84, an only child, lived at Egmore Vale, near Bridgend.

Vernon, whose apprenticeship was interrupted by National Service with the Royal Ordnance Corps in North Africa from 1947 to 1950, qualified as a cabinet maker but worked for a time as a plumber’s mate.

He recalled: “I was on a ladder, looking down into an office where Joan was dusting her boss’s desk.”

Joan said: “I was only 16, but you asked me ‘how’s the chance of you being a housewife?’”

Vernon’s cheeky approach paid off, as she agreed to go out with him, riding pillion on his motorbike. They visited Vernon’s aunt in Swindon, and also went to Bournemouth and Newquay. Joan’s mother demanded to see the hotel booking form, to ensure that they had occupied single rooms.

“She was very strict, and concerned that I must behave properly,” Joan said.

On another occasion she had been at Vernon’s house just before his parents were due to go on holiday to Weston, by Red Funnel steamer. Unfortunately Joan developed a severe cold and felt too ill to travel home, so Vernon went on his motorbike to tell her mother. “She got Joan’s younger sister out of bed, bundled her up in warm clothes and sent her back with me, as chaperone,” he said.

The wedding, at Pontyclun Church, with two of Joan’s sisters as bridesmaids, was spectacular. Vernon and Joan were both Cub Scout leaders, and the Cubs provided an impressive Guard of Honour.

They shared Vernon’s parents’ home - a spacious bungalow - for the first few years of marriage and moved to Swindon with his widowed mother when their elder son Steven was four.

“We were in Swindon for nine years, near to my mother’s sisters,” Vernon said.

The couple’s second son Stuart was born in Old Town.

Vernon worked as a carpenter and became a site agent for Colbornes, a local building company, while Joan worked as a shorthand typist.

After Vernon’s mother died, the couple decided on a change of lifestyle, by entering the pub trade.

“That was funny, as I didn’t drink,” said Joan.

“But Vernon, who worked outdoors in all weathers, used to play skittles at a pub in Rodbourne. We thought we’d like to run The Curriers Arms.”

Vernon said: “We so enjoyed being there. It was hard work, but we met so many lovely people, including a lot of rugby players, who had their first club meetings there,”

Vernon used his craft skills to build a 37ft boat, a four year project in the back garden of the Curriers Arms, where the Friday night customers, who were keen on sailing, took great interest .

“We had some wonderful trips in that boat, to Cherbourg, Le Havre and the Channel Islands,” he said.

The couple now enjoy spending time with their family.

“Our family is very important to us, and it’s good for couples to work at their marriage,” said Joan.

“We’re pleased that our family, including the two grandsons, are within easy reach. We’re happy to have had an interesting life and to have known so many lovely people.”