Couple say ‘tolerance’ is secret to their 70-year marriage

Jimmy and Barbara Hamilton. Picture: SWNS
Jimmy and Barbara Hamilton. Picture: SWNS
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They survived years living one of the world’s most dangerous war zones and dodging hand grenades to reach 70 years of marriage.

But Barbara Hamilton, 95, and husband Jimmy, 96, have attributed the longevity of their marriage not down to sharing that harrowing experience, but instead “tolerance” and never going to sleep on a row.

The couple from Hamilton in South Lanarkshire first met in 1940, but did not get involved romantically until six years later when Jimmy returned from serving in India.

And although they have spent most of their lives in Scotland, the Hamiltons lived for 14 years in the Middle East during a turbulent era when the Colony of Aden became South Arabia – now known as Yemen. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a recent party at the retirement home where they live in Hamilton and invited around 70 guests.

Barbara said: “We have really had a very happy life and an interesting life too, in as much as we’ve done things that an awful lot of people would never imagine would happen.”

Having met shorthand student Barbara at night school, Jimmy, who was training to be a plumber, invited her to a dance hosted by the Scouts.

After they started courting, Jimmy spotted a posting at Islington Council, North London, with the offer of a flat – for a married couple.

Their wedding was brought forward from Hogmanay to 6 November 1948 and after honeymooning in Inverness, the newlyweds moved to London.

But they returned to Scotland when the chance presented itself, and in 1949 Barbara gave birth to their only child Ken. As a child Barbara had been fascinated by blockbuster film Lawrence of Arabia and saw a job advert for a placement in the Colony of Aden in the back of a magazine.

She showed it to Jimmy, who applied for the role in the civil service.

The couple would spend 14 years living in the Middle East from 1953.

During that time, the country became increasingly unstable. The threat of landmines, snipers and hand grenades became a part of everyday life.

Barbara said: “We knew quite a few people who were killed. Sometimes the smell of cordite would come into the house from the window. It was a war zone more or less, from the time of our second leave.”

The Colony of Aden became the Federation of South Arabia in 1963 and eventually became a part of unified Yemen in 1990.

As the country descended into factional conflict, Arabic graffiti started to appear with slogans such as “Bring back the dirty British”.

Both Barbara and Jimmy learnt to speak some Arabic, which they can still recall to this day.