Sidbury couple overwhelmed by diamond well-wishers

Sidbury villagers deluge couple with 60th anniversary cards

THERE was no champagne for Sidbury’s honorary archivists last Thursday, when Barbara and Alan Softly celebrated their diamond wedding.

“We had so many phone calls and visitors, we didn’t get time to open it,” explained Barbara, 87.

She and Alan, 86, have been overwhelmed by the number of cards and congratulatory messages they have received from residents in the village, particularly as they hadn’t broadcast it was their special anniversary.

“We even had a card from the Queen,” said Alan, who married Barbara at Epsom Methodist Church – where they met – on Easter Sunday, 1951. “Most of the 40 cards were from people in the village.”

“We met each other in the church hall and took an instant dislike to each other,” said Barbara, who has been a prolific author of both children’s books and historical novels and factual books

However, said Alan, who retired as head of publicity services for Shell UK in 1984, they soon began acting in plays together.

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“I used to do a lot of amateur dramatics and operatic work,” he said.

“One day Alan proposed to me while I was pumping up my bicycle tyre,” Barbara remembered. “I said marriage was the end of everything, I didn’t want to get married.”

She was 27 and he 26, a captain in the Army after being commander of a German prisoner-of-war camp at the age of 20.

For four years after their wedding, Barbara taught in a private school in Little Bookham, Surrey, but it was their move to Sidbury 27 years ago that transformed their lives.

“It has been the happiest time of our lives,” said Alan, who with Barbara have been adopted as Sidbury’s honorary achivists and have written books about St Giles Church and a booklet, Within the Bounds, about beating the bounds.

As well as transforming their garden and opening it to the public, the couple started the Sidbury branch of Devon Wildlife Trust, worked with Sidbury Into Drama and ran the annual party for Friends of St Giles.

“We feel we are really part of the village and really feel we belong here,” he said.

“We fell in love with the house, which we couldn’t afford, and we have lived in heaven ever since.”