Our secret is tolerance and a warped sense of humour

Rita and Reg Olley, of Highcroft Road, Todmorden, celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on April 10, 2012
Rita and Reg Olley, of Highcroft Road, Todmorden, celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on April 10, 2012

A STAGE star and a vicar celebrated their golden wedding anniversary this week.

Rita and Reg Olley, of Highcroft Road, Todmorden, reached 50 years of marriage on April 10.

Family and friends gathered at their home to celebrate the special occasion with them.

Rita, 81, and Reg, 76, met in London in 1960.

Rita was appearing in a show. She went outside to use the phone and bumped into Reg, who invited her for a cup of coffee.

Less than two years later, they were married at St Peter’s Church in Rita’s home town of Harrogate.

Their marriage has been full of fireworks from the very beginning. The wedding was conducted by Rev Ronald Lancaster, known to many as the “pyro king” as he later went into the fireworks business.

“It was a beautiful sunny day but it was very windy,” Rita said.

“We have a photo with my veil standing on its end.”

Rita puts the success of their marriage down to meeting a chimney sweep on the way to the church.

“There’s an old superstition that if you shake hands with a chimney sweep, your marriage will be good,” she said.

For their honeymoon, the couple went to Rotherham for the afternoon and remember buying a second hand television for £5.

“I was booked for concerts and I couldn’t get time off work,” Rita said.

“It was real family entertainment,” Reg said. “People used to look forward to coming.”

When he first met Rita, Reg was having an industrial break from monastic college where he had been training.

He was working as a theatre technician in a hospital.

He later went back to college to complete his training. He was posted to churches in Slaithwaite and Almondbury before becoming vicar of Walsden in 1972.

Three years later, he moved to a parish in Daventry.

In 1980, he left the ministry and became house master at Dobroyd Castle School. They returned to Todmorden and have remained here ever since.

While they moved around the country, Rita got work in clubs performing her one woman show featuring everything from opera to comedy.

She is still performing today as leader of the Senior Moments Concert Party, which also includes Reg. They perform at care homes in the upper Calder Valley.

“It’s so wonderful,” she said. “I don’t want it to finish.”

Rita and Reg are hoping to go on holiday later in the year to mark their anniversary.

“They really have been fantastic years,” Reg said.

“We put our marriage down to tolerance and a warped sense of humour.”