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Watch: North-east couple share special Valentine’s Day tradition – even after 70 years of marriage

Ellie House
Chrissy and Ernie Rowland have been married for 70 years. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Ernie Rowland doesn’t need music to burst into song, for he has spent the past 70 years serenading his one and only inspiration.

Jokingly referring to himself as a toyboy, he pats his wife’s hand and continues to sing, before his voice wavers with emotion.

“My darling,” he says, his eyes wet.

“We’ve had fun haven’t we; well we must have done because we have four daughters to show for it.”

Chrissy and Ernie Rowland have been married for 70 years, and still celebrate Valentine’s Day. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

What originally started as a way to mark the occasion, while precious pennies were spent on the essentials, has become a language which only this very special couple know the true meaning of.

Every look, every gesture, reflects the years spent together, after the couple became Mr and Mrs Rowland on December 27 1952.

There was the time the chimney caught fire on their wedding night, followed by making a life together in a top-floor flat in Woodside – where the water routinely froze and an outside toilet was the norm.

A special song for a great love

Ten grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and the couple remain just as devoted.

He may be 92, hence the toyboy quip, but that doesn’t stop Ernie from visiting Chrissy at Jesmond Care Home in Bridge of Don.

This Valentine’s Day, he will sing to her as he always has done, a tradition which Chrissy confesses to love.

There won’t be huge bunches of flowers or fancy meals, but the gift of a song has clearly stood the couple in good stead.

The couple still believe it is important to show some romance. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Indeed on Ernie’s admission, theirs is a love story which has been 70 years in the making.

Your Life caught up with couples across the north-east to find out how they will be celebrating on Tuesday, from love across the oceans to a pair who never forget their wedding anniversary – because they just so happened to get married on February 14.

Here’s to love in all its forms, be it a verse or via Zoom call; happy Valentine’s Day.

Chrissy and Ernie Rowland: ‘We’ve never sent cards or flowers’

Asked why their marriage has gone the distance, Chrissy looks deep in thought for a moment.

“It must be a tin of glue sticking us together,” she jokes, and Ernie just grins.

Short for Ernest, Ernie’s devotion to Chrissy is evident, his singing so genuine and heartfelt that it seems almost intrusive to listen.

The pair married in St Andrew’s Cathedral on King Street in Aberdeen, two days after Christmas.

Making ends meet

“That was the only time we could get off work,” says Ernie, matter of factly.

It wasn’t a big do, Ernie had to hire a suit and Chrissy managed to get a loan of a wedding dress.

Ernie clutches their wedding photo, which their grandson presented them with in colour as opposed to the original black and white.

They look every inch the dashing couple, Ernie with blonde hair slicked back and a smile beaming from cheek to cheek.

Chrissy and Earnest pictured on their wedding day, in December of 1952. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Life hasn’t dulled that smile one bit, at least not when Chrissy is in the room.

“We were both on low wages, we couldn’t afford a lot,” says Ernie.

“We had the reception in a hotel on Market Street; everybody was poor as church mice in those days.

“Chrissy worked at Woodend Laundry, and I went on to join the transport corporation.

“We’ve never sent flowers or cards on Valentine’s Day, we couldn’t afford them.”

A life together

Shortly after the couple were married they managed to find an attic flat, which cost two and six a week.

“It was a garret, and we had to pay what was called key money in those days,” recalls Ernie, while Chrissy checks that I’m taking notes.

Chrissy, age 94 and Ernie, 92, are still very much in love. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

They take care of each other in the tiniest of ways, a nod to say “I remember that too”.

They can even recall one of their first disagreements, after Ernie fell off a ladder whilst decorating and landed straight in the wallpaper paste.

But that still didn’t stop him from singing and “I’ll be your sweetheart” was a particular favourite on Valentine’s Day.

“I’ll be you sweetheart, if you will be mine,” Ernie croons, words which Chrissy has never tired of hearing.

“All my life, I’ll be your Valentine.”

It is a promise he has kept, a tradition which the couple have “always” done come what may.

Courting by the river

Asked how they met in the first place, Chrissy’s tale is slightly less romantic.

She worked at Lumsden & Son on Union Street when Ernie, who helped out with deliveries, first set eyes on her.

“I had no idea who he was,” she says.

“All these years later, I can’t remember if I was attracted to him or not.

Ernie, on the other hand, knew he’d found the woman for him.

“I remember seeing her and thinking now that’s a good-looking girl,” he says, and there’s mischief in his voice.

“I was attracted to her right away, but I was so nervous and I didn’t know what to say.”

The couple had four daughters together. Image: Scott Baxter/DC Thomson

Whatever the subject of conversation, it must have worked, as the couple started going on walks together.

They’d wander along the banks of the River Dee, and then there was the time they got lost in the hills in an attempt to pick blueberries.

After they had raised a family and retired, the couple finally got to go travelling – from Germany to Australia.

Asked what the key to a successful marriage is, Chrissy chips in.

“It’s about give and take,” she says.

“We’ve always given back to one another.”

Ernie agrees, the wedding picture still cradled in his hands.

“It’s about having love and respect; you have ups and downs but you always come back to each other.”

Megan and Kirk Miller: ‘It’s a glimpse of us as a couple’

Megan and Kirk Miller are spending their first Valentine’s Day apart, and have been together for 11 years.

Kirk is currently thousands of miles away in Australia where the pair first met, after his contract ended sooner than expected.

Megan and Kirk Miller fell in love, not just with each other but with the north-east. Image: Megan Miller

Megan, who is from the US, remains in Scotland tying up loose ends, but they hope to reunite in America in the spring.

The couple first came to the north-east as they both work in oil and gas, and they fell in love with Aberdeen and the north-east in general.

Their love story may not be going quite as planned, but their fate was already predicted by Megan’s mum when she first decided to go travelling.

Chance meeting

“She said that if I went to Australia, I was going to meet a guy and never come back,” recalls Megan.

“I did meet a guy, out of hundreds of people on the site, we spotted each other.”

Megan is a contractor and Kirk was working for Shell at the time.

Whilst their meeting may not sound the stuff of great love stories, the fact they bumped into each other at all is actually pretty special.

Megan and Kirk met whilst working in the oil and gas industry in Australia. Image: Megan Miller.

“I think there were only three women on the site, but around 1,700 men because it was one of the largest refineries,” says Megan.

“We always used to walk past each other, and the guys had their names on their shirts.

“When we finally spoke, he said ‘Hey, I’m Kirk’ and I just stared at him and went ‘what’s your name again?’

“I think I said hello and then ran away, we were smiling at each other like two idiots.”

After the pair finally met up outside of work, they have been inseparable ever since.

Staying in: A tradition worth keeping

But rather than go big on Valentine’s Day, they have a sweet tradition which they continued in the north-east – not least thanks to our fantastic food and drink industry.

“We always have so much fun together, but going out isn’t really our thing,” said Megan.

“We always get our favourite pizza on Valentine’s Day; in Aberdeen that is Big Manny’s and we order their buffalo wings as well.

“We have something called ‘Friday flowers’, where Kirk picks up flowers for me, and for Valentine’s Day we always get a really good bottle of Champagne.

“It’s just another excuse for something to celebrate, and to get good pizza of course.”

Megan and Kirk have a special tradition of pizza and Champagne on Valentine’s Day. Image: Megan Miller.

Megan believes that although Valentine’s can seem a bit like a “Hallmark holiday“, it’s still a reason to celebrate.

“We’ve had those traditions for as long as I can remember, we always thought why go  out when we can stay in,” she says.

“I think we’ll always do this, pizza and Champagne.

“We don’t go over the top, I always forget to get a card. But there’s something innocent and pure about it.

“We don’t put it on social media, it’s a private moment between us.

“But I think it’s at times like that, where you get glimpses of a relationship.

“Of a couple sat on their sofa in their snuggly clothes, wing juice on their faces.”

Maria and Bryan Robertson: Romantics at heart

Maria and Bryan Robertson have a lot to celebrate this Valentine’s Day, as they prepare to mark 20 years of marriage.

Whilst they didn’t set out to get married on February 14, they believe it couldn’t have worked out better.

Maria and Bryan Robertson have been together for 25 years in total. Image: Maria Robertson.

“My parents were in the hotel trade, but as it so happened they were closed for the month of February,” recalls Maria.

“When the wedding planner suggested that date, I thought to myself, is that cheesy?

“But my husband was keen – being an Aberdonian he wouldn’t have to buy two presents every year!

“Looking back, I love that we had the whole family there on that day in particular.

“It was a big celebration of love so to speak, and it just felt even more special.”

Maria and Bryan Robertson opted to get married on Valentine’s Day, and are set to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Image: Maria Robertson.

The couple met at Robert Gordon University, when Maria, who was a fourth year, decided that a younger man was on the cards.

“I had already decided that men weren’t really worth the trouble,” she recalls.

“But I thought it would be funny to go out with a fresher, it was a bit of a joke.

“I just remember that Bryan had a nice smile.”

Keeping it simple

The pair dated briefly, before bumping into each other again at a party.

“We’ve been together 25 years now; it’s funny how life works out,” says Maria.

“I think people object to Valentine’s Day because it has become so commercialised.

“I’m quite a romantic person, and I can still remember one of the nicest things Bryan did for me.

Romantic gestures don’t need to cost money, as proven by Bryan Robertson who created the love heart above. Image: Maria Robertson.

“It was such a simple little thing. I always sprinkle raisins on my cereal. I left the table one time and when I came back, he had picked all the raisins out and arranged them on a plate in the shape of a heart.

“He proposed at T in the Park with a metal ring; we weren’t quite at that stage at the time. I still have the ring though, it’s in the shape of a rose, and roses featured heavily on our wedding day.

Maria kept the ring which Bryan originally proposed with. Image: Maria Robertson.

“This year we won’t be doing presents as such, but we will be going for a really nice meal.

“That’s our present to each other, the memory.”