‘Good fortune and faithfulness’ help Joe and Ruth Lubbock to reach 75 years of marriage

PUBLISHED: 15:34 28 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:34 28 April 2016

Joe and Ruth Lubbock celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary this week.

Joe and Ruth Lubbock celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary this week.


Suffolk couple Joseph and Ruth Lubbock are today celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. LYNNE MORTIMER meets them as they mark three-quarters of a century as Mr and Mrs Lubbock.

Joe and Ruth Lubbock on their wedding day 75 years ago.Joe and Ruth Lubbock on their wedding day 75 years ago.

They have surpassed the precious metals; gold, silver and platinum, and they are beyond rubies and diamonds, for Joe and Ruth Lubbock are today celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary – three-quarters of a century of happy marriage.

Both their birthdays fall in May and, by the end of next month, the sum of their years will total 200 as Mr Lubbock celebrates his 101st birthday on the 20th and Mrs Lubbock reaches 99 on the 30th.

The couple, who live near Woodbridge, first met in the 1930s. Their families, who were related, would occasionally meet up in Norfolk, where Ruth Gurney lived on a farm “with lovely parents and five siblings in Bawdeswell. At dances, the young Ruth thought Joseph Lubbock, who lived in Kent, was an attractive young man: “I always thought he was rather gorgeous,” she says.

Mr Lubbock remembers hearing, as a small child, the sound of the guns “banging over the channel” during the First World War.

Their courtship began in 1940. Mr Lubbock, who had an engineering degree from Cambridge, was now in the Royal Engineers, recently evacuated from France.

“My unit was on the west side of the German push and we went to Brest with the Germans in hot pursuit. From there, a Royal Navy ship took us back to England,” he said.

With a smile on her face, Mrs Lubbock recalled: “Joe came visiting. He had come back from France and thought he would like to get settled. He invited me out and I said ‘no’ the first time. I said I didn’t know him enough... that got rectified.”

Their first date was a walk up to the White Horse on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshire.

The proposal took place in Mr Lubbock’s home in Kent underneath portraits of two of his ancestors from the philanthropic Quaker family, the Gurneys.

It was a relatively short courtship: “You couldn’t hang about in the War. You didn’t know if there would be a tomorrow,” says Mrs Lubbock.

The couple were married at Bawdeswell Church on April 28, 1941. The church is no longer there but survives in their wedding photographs which are in an album along with a swatch of material from Mrs Lubbock’s wedding dress, which was sewn through with gold thread. The bride wore her grandmother’s veil and carried a bouquet of lilies and (we think, having studied the photographs) freesias. There were four bridesmaids, three cousins and Mrs Lubbock’s friend Bridget Pym... they remain close friends today.

With farm vehicles able to 
obtain fuel, some of the guests arrived on tractors, she recalls.

The three-tiered wedding cake was the centrepiece to the reception and, also in the album, is a carefully typed list of all the wedding gifts they received and who they were from. Among them, a wooden spoon, Pyrex bakeware, several cheques and amounts in guineas and even “a cut glass ashtray” – how times have changed. Remarkably, they still have a number of their wedding presents including the silver pickle jar but the whereabouts of others (eg. the picture of Cromer) are unknown.

The honeymoon was four days in Faslane, Scotland, where Mr Lubbock was stationed, one of the team of army engineers which was involved in the work constructing the vital base for supply ships on the River Clyde.

Their shared love of the countryside meant they did a lot of walking and observing birds’ nests on their brief break. Their first home of their own, after the war, was in Maidenhead, where the family – by now their daughters, Jennie and Catherine, had been born – were flooded out of their house. Mrs Lubbock remembers the girls thought it was “marvellous” when they were rescued by a navy duck boat. “The children brought their white mice with them”.

Their youngest daughter, Lucinda, sadly died of cancer.

Mr and Mrs Lubbock, made the decision to move to Suffolk 53 years ago. It was the happiest of choices. Mr Lubbock pursued his love of sailing and Mrs Lubbock immersed herself in village life through the Mothers’ Union, the WI and also learned French and Italian. At the same time as their move, after many enormously distinguished years in engineering, Mr Lubbock was to change the course of his career and become an acclaimed artist and writer. Today, aged 100 years, he is in the process of creating his next book.

His copper plate prints, incorporated into a number of fabulously illustrated volumes, were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1996 and he has works kept in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and in the British Library. The shift of career, agree the Lubbocks, was something of a leap of faith – but they have no shortage of faith. Over their long lives and happy marriage, their religious belief and the Church has been important to them.

“Our faith has been a big part of our lives,” says Mrs Lubbock.

Together, they have travelled the world – there is a storm of pins in a map of the world detailing the places they have visited, and embraced their large family which now extends to nine grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

“We are very content,” says Mrs Lubbock and adds that though they may disagree “we never throw things!”

She says their long and happy marriage is down to “good fortune and faithfulness”.

“We have always been absolutely happy,” her husband agrees.

Would they say they are still in love? Oh yes, and today it is a “deeper love”.

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