AN ever so slightly forward suitor, generous servings of homemade apple pie and of course unconditional love have proved the secret to longevity for Marjorie and Lionel Sheppard who celebrated 70 years together this month.

Marjorie, a retired children’s nurse and typewriting teacher, was 17 when Lionel, who went by the nickname of Sandy, due to the colour of his hair, asked her to dance at the former Bradford Hall in Devizes Road.

Walking her to her door, the bold 18-year-old kissed her goodnight – a very forward move according to Marjorie, who was nonetheless charmed and intrigued.

A few days later and despite strict rationing and the scarcity of sweet treats, Lionel conjured a chocolate bar while out on a walk – his first present to the woman who would soon become his wife and a gesture Marjorie never forgot.

After an 18-month courtship, the couple married at the register office on July 19, 1944 and last week marked their platinum anniversary.

“I had seen him at the hall before but this time he asked me to dance,” said Marjorie, 89, of Upper Stratton.

“He asked if he could take me home and when we got there I thought that was it but he kissed me good night. And I thought ‘What a forward young man.’”

Lionel, 90, who worked at the North Wilts Engineering Society throughout his career, said: “We courted 18 months and I think I said ‘Let’s get wed.’ I just knew I wanted to marry her.”

The pair have two daughters, Dorothy and Lynda, five grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

From the first, they approached marriage as a partnership, and never failed to consult each other on important decisions. This spared them from bickering and the pair are still to experience their first marital row.

This 70-year peace could well have had something to do with Marjorie’s baking skills and her famous apple pie.

“The secret is love – of course it is,” said Lionel. “And we decide everything together. I don’t know where the years have gone.”

Marjorie said: “We do everything together, we always have. It has been a partnership. Fortunately we like the same things. And Lionel likes my apple pies and fruit cake – it has helped.

“It’s all been a smooth ride. We’ve never had a row but I’ve had my say.

“At the beginning it’s a physical attraction but it gets stronger. Over the years it has become different. We are mates. I know we had stars in our eyes at the beginning but I had no doubt it would work.”