WHEN 16-year-old miner Joe Cranston walked into his local Co-op he wasn’t looking for love.
But smitten by Rachel, the 15-year-old girl behind the counter, he did what any true 1930s gent would do – he asked her to dance.
Now, more than three generations on, the couple are still proving that young love can last – all the way to a 70th wedding anniversary.
“I worked in the Co-op in Chopwell when I was 15 and Joe came in,” said great-grandmother Rachel, now 88.
“He asked me to a dance at Chopwell Church Hall, then walked me home. After that we kept going to dances.”
The couple were married at St John’s Church in Chopwell on January 9, 1943, when Rachel was 18 and Joe was approaching his 20th birthday.
For the first year the pair lived with Rachel’s parents before moving out into a one up, one down terrace, and having the first of their two sons.
“In those days married women got finished from working in the shop, so I looked after the home,” said Rachel.
“I was working in the mines,” said Joe, 89. “I started at 14 and worked at High Spen colliery then moved to Lilley Drift at Rowlands Gill.
“I did 21 years in the pits until I had a problem with my back, so became Chopwell School’s caretaker for 11 years.
“In my 40s I went back and worked in the coal washer, the building at a colliery where soil and rock are removed. In total I did 34 years attached to the mines before retiring at 59.”
Since then Joe has indulged his passion for painting, putting brush to canvas to depict everything from the lush and leafy – or snowy – Chopwell Woods, to the now lost North East collieries and daily life in the villages surrounding his High Spen home.
But ask the couple for their secret of a long and happy marriage and they both agree that tolerance, rather than painting, is the key.
“I would say tolerance is the most important thing, because you will have your ups and downs in marriage,” said Joe. “But really, after 70 years, I can say it’s been a good life for both of us.”
The couple have two sons, former Stanley-based insurance broker Neil, 69, and engineer Stuart, 65, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
And for their big day many members of the family returned to the North East from across the UK, popping champagne corks in celebration of the landmark.
“It was nice just to be all together again,” said Rachel. “It’s not as if everyone just lives up the street.”