60 years of adventure together

Alan and Pauline Billings will celebrate their diamond jubilee on December 17. Times photo Farida Master

Lured by the idea of a tiny country offering a two-year job contract to immigrants, Alan Billings set sail from England aboard the Captain Cook which transported immigrants to New Zealand via the Panama Canal from 1952 to 1960.

Around 63 years later, sitting at his Bucklands Beach home with a water view, Alan raises a toast to 60 years of marriage to Pauline. They are celebrating their Diamond Jubilee on December 17.

While they are looking forward to congratulatory cards from the Queen and the Mayor, they reflect on their endless adventure together with its share of trials and triumphs.

Pauline, who also arrived from England 60 years ago, sailed on the British passenger ship SS Himalaya on a two-year job contract. She met her future husband at an engineering company where they both worked in Wellington.

“In those days you had to pay 10 pounds if you went to Australia, so I decided to come to New Zealand instead,” she says.

She says her future husband got tired of doing the rounds whilst dating.

“I lived at a hostel in Upper Hut and he lived in Trentham. After a while he said, I am getting tired travelling to and fro. This is no good! Let’s get married,” she laughs.

Pauline remembers how Alan and she stayed up all night to bake their wedding cake, 60 years ago. Times photo Farida Master

“I remember we stayed up all night to make our own wedding cake. He’s a good man,” she says of her 91-year-old husband.

“Around 46 years ago, a real estate agent showed us around the Bucklands Beach area. In those days there were only baches here. We bought a plot of land and built our house. I even helped the builder lay out the concrete,” she says.

The couple had three boys but lost two of their sons to different accidents.

“We lost Nigel (one of our twins) at the age of 12 and our other son Graham at the age of 22. “No parent can ever get over the loss of their child,” says the mother-of-three who, years later, found solace in spirituality.

Their third son Ian lived in Mexico has now returned to New Zealand with his wife and two children, Ryan and Lauren.

“He said his dad is getting old and wanted to live close by so that he can be of help to us,” says the 83-year-old.

As for the secret of a long-lasting marriage, Pauline says it is staying together and doing things together.

“Even though we are two different people, we act as one. We complement each other,” she says looking at her husband.

Alan pipes in saying, “It’s been a fun life together. We’ve had some great times travelling the world.”

His face lights up as they talk about driving their son’s station wagon and touring America, Canada and Alaska. “It feels like yesterday! There were a lot of misses but those were exciting times. We’ve had a good life together.”