Couple celebrates 60th wedding anniversary in Sheffield on a day to remember - for the right reasons

James and Valerie Forde on their wedding day in 1957
James and Valerie Forde on their wedding day in 1957
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A couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary used a family blessing to recreate a special day which almost didn’t go ahead.

James and Valerie Forde’s ceremony was in danger of being cancelled because of a flu epidemic sweeping across Sheffield.

Valerie and James Forde at their blessing ceremony in Sheffield

Valerie and James Forde at their blessing ceremony in Sheffield

The bride and her mother, Marjorie, were ill, and the flu claimed the life of the groom’s father Frederick in the days before the wedding, on September 21, 1957 at St James' Church, Norton.

The vicar was ill, and the choir and bell-ringers were unable to perform because of the flu.

“It was a weird week, as you can imagine,” Mrs Forde, who is now 80, said.

“Tuesday, we had the funeral, and the wedding was on Saturday.”

James and Valerie Forde at their blessing in Sheffield

James and Valerie Forde at their blessing in Sheffield

Things didn’t improve when the couple left Sheffield and honeymooned in Cornwall.

Spring tides, flooding and gale forced winds hampered what should have been a joyous occasion for the pair.

Mr and Mrs Forde’s family wanted to ensure they had a better time for their big anniversary.

Son Russell drove the couple from their Bournemouth home, where they have lived for more than 20 years, to Sheffield for the celebrations.

Family were recruited to drive them around the city again. The couple also spent some time in the Peak District.

The main event was a blessing ceremony at the same church where they were married, but the couple also got a tour of the Town Hall from Sheffield Lord Mayor Anne Murphy.

“She was very welcoming,” Mrs Forde said.

“We had a lovely chat.”

The couple was in Sheffield for a week, and saw plenty of their old city again.

“We had a lovely time,” Mrs Forde said.

It was in stark contrast to the wedding itself.

Mr Forde’s memories of the day aren’t fond.

“The original one was awful,” the 85-year-old said.

“It was a miserable day. Wet and misty.”

They enjoyed having another look around Sheffield, a city which has vastly changed since they were residents two decades ago.

The Goodwin Fountain was long gone from the top of Fargate.

“I had a hand in that,” he said.

“Working with the plumbing superintendent in the Water Department.”

That was how the couple got together. Mrs Forde, who was then a Miss Webber, was a secretary at the Town Hall, where she met Mr Forde.

That’s how they got to tour the same venue more than half a century later.

Mr Forde said he was surprised at the extent of the celebrations.

“We had a bit of prior warning,” he said, referring to family plans to bring the couple to Sheffield.

“But we didn’t know much about it.”

Seaside retirement suits the couple, but Sheffield’s proximity to the Peak District and the Hope Valley is something they both miss.

“We miss that scenery,” Mr Forde said.

After so many years away, they marvelled at the ‘tidiness and beauty’ of their former home.

Mrs Forde, a keen gardener, noted the cut grass.

“There was always litter and the grass wasn’t cut,” she said.

“Now, the grass was cut and the litter was removed.

“Everything looked lovely.”

The couple’s granddaughter, Jasmine, was pleased to be able to see her grandparents have a much nicer day than the first time around.

“They had a really lovely time,” she said.