‘Married 61 years and I feel truly blessed’

Feb 10, 2020
Brian and Jacqui on their wedding day in 1959. Source: Brian Lee

At 85 years old and 61 years married (to the same beautiful girl), I feel I have lived a life truly blessed by nature! I guess the good things started for me when I was born in 1935, into a decent, working-class family who lived in one of the newer, better suburbs of Bristol. My dad was an assistant in a gent’s outfitters and Mum worked as a milliner, so they didn’t make a pile of money, but they were careful and they certainly looked after me well until I eventually left home in 1959!

Right from an early age I enjoyed drawing, something I did nearly all the time, when I wasn’t at school, and by the time I was at Grammar School I was quite good at it. I had joined the science stream at school when I started there, so the ‘arty’ bit took a comparative back seat most of the time, but at the age of 15 I decided it was art for me instead and I took the entrance exam for the West of England College of Art, much to the surprise of my tutors! I passed the exam and commenced their course in graphic design, or ‘commercial art’ as it was called in those days. So the die was cast as far as my future career was concerned and when I completed the course, I gained an apprenticeship with a large firm of printers in Bristol in the United Kingdom.

I was very happy there and I completed my apprenticeship seven years later, having also done two years National Service. I then became a journeyman in 1957 and got on with the trade that I loved, a trade that to me was more like enjoying my main hobby and getting paid for it!

Eighteen months later, two very important things happened; I met and fell in love with Jacqui, and got engaged to her after us being together for about six months. No sooner had that happened than my employer asked me if I would go out to New Zealand with the company, to start a studio there, in a printing factory they had purchased in Auckland. I immediately said yes and went home that evening in trepidation over what Jacqui might say, though I was prepared to abandon the NZ idea if she wasn’t interested. Thank goodness she was as excited as I was over the idea, so all we had to do then was to tell our parents that we were going to move our wedding forward from the original two years’ time we had planned for, to about two months down the track! More shock and tears all round, but our families could see we were genuinely excited about it and the prospects for the future within the company that it offered, and by January 31, 1959 we were married and we sailed on the Rangitoto on March 15.

We lived in New Zealand for about five years, then I left the company and we returned to the UK for family reasons, sad to be leaving a country we had grown to love, and sailing on the Oriana to arrive in Southampton a month later to grey skies and drizzling rain. Jacqui’s parents met us and we drove through the narrow, grey streets with their tiny grey houses and miniature front ‘gardens’, and grey tar-sealed roads under those dreadful grey skies, completely unhappy and wishing we were back ‘home’ in New Zealand again, to their brightly coloured houses and blue skies!

We made the best we could of it and before long, having worked for an advertising agency in Bath for five years, I started my own business and life started to look up. I made very good money producing artwork, photography and copy for several national and international companies, for nearly 20 years, then we got itchy feet again. Our two sons had already been living in Australia for a couple of years and in 1987 we followed them out here. We’ve have never regretted a moment of it apart from a bit of financial misfortune we had soon after our arrival.

We have now lived here for 33 years, the longest we have lived anywhere, we have many good friends here and we live in happy retirement in a small town deep in the heart of Gippsland in Victoria. Naturally, a lot more than this little yarn has happened, in 61 years of marriage, but space doesn’t allow me to write more, however, I can say absolutely honestly that it has been a happy 61 years — and I wouldn’t want to change one single day of it. Plus, Jacqui and I are still together!

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