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Wedding anniversary: Waihī couple celebrate 65 years of marriage

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David and Sheila Callaghan at home in Waihī.

When David and Sheila Callaghan met in 1957 it was love at first sight. Now, they are about to celebrate their blue sapphire wedding anniversary which marks 65 years of marriage. The two lovebirds shared their secrets to a long and happy relationship with the Hauraki-Coromandel Post.

David, now 87, originally from Matamata, and Sheila, now 89, from Nottinghamshire, met in London at a hotel where David was boarding while he was studying for a Merchant Navy deck officer certificate and Sheila was a housemaid.

Sheila was working alongside David’s mother Cynthia and David was doing “the odd job” at the hotel while he was boarding.

“That’s how I met Sheila, which was the best thing I have ever done,” he said.

“We went out on the town together, and after a few months courting, we became engaged in October 1958.”

Sheila said she liked his accent: “He spoke different.

“I used to go for older ones; I don’t know what happened with this one,” she joked.

David said age was not a factor for him, as it was not a question he put to the ladies.

They got married in London on May 16, 1959.

“I felt rather lucky as she had the choice from at least 10 million British potential suitors to marry and she chose me,” David said.

So what’s the secret to a long and healthy relationship? David and Sheila said the emphasis was on healthy: they enjoy running marathons together.

David and Sheila Callaghan on their wedding day, May 16, 1959.
David and Sheila Callaghan on their wedding day, May 16, 1959.

Sheila has run eight marathons, many 10-kilometre races and several half marathons, while David has completed 24 marathons plus three ultra-marathons.

It was David who first started getting into the sport, inspired by a colleague who encouraged him to join a Harriers club in 1979. Sheila joined a year later.

David said he was overweight and unfit, so it took a few months before he ran his first marathon in Hamilton.

After that, he was hooked. When Sheila won a 10-day trip to the Honolulu Marathon in 1981, both of them went along and ran alongside 6000 participants.

They also completed the Tickhill St Leger Racecourse half marathon in the UK in 1986.

Overall, Sheila and David are crediting being active as key contributors to a happy marriage.

David has participated in six triathlons, while Sheila cycled the Otago Rail Trail as David followed in their campervan.

From right, Sheila's grandfather, father, mother, grandmother, Sheila, David, Colin Deed (best man), Thoral Eade, Cynthia Wagstaff, Fred (Cynthia's friend). Pictured on the wedding day at Belsize Ave, Hampstead Heath, London.
From right, Sheila’s grandfather, father, mother, grandmother, Sheila, David, Colin Deed (best man), Thoral Eade, Cynthia Wagstaff, Fred (Cynthia’s friend). Pictured on the wedding day at Belsize Ave, Hampstead Heath, London.

“Sheila and I were also members of tramping clubs and tramped for several years around the Coromandel hills.

“We now attend the Waihī Steady As You Go session each week where I am usually the only male in the class with 16 ladies,” David said.

“The programme involves various exercise to help our balance, a lot of stretching.”

Apart from being active together, David and Sheila say respect was key.

“We have always respected each other’s ideas and opinions and worked well together for 65 years,” David said.

“Listen to one another before you butt in on what the other one says,” Sheila added.

“[And] we hold hands; it’s a laugh every day.”

Sheila pictured in 1958.
Sheila pictured in 1958.

After their wedding, David got a job share in Camden Town, London.

“The Carreras Tobacco Company had put an advert in the local paper stating that they required machine operators with ‘above intelligence and mechanical ability’, I laughed and told Sheila that I would fail on both counts.

But he applied anyway, got the job and worked there until they returned to New Zealand in 1959, aboard the RMS Rangitata.

The couple moved into David’s mother’s flat in Ellerslie, Auckland.

David found work assembling refrigerators and Sheila worked in production at Fisher & Paykel in Panmure.

Their first child, Ian, was born in December 1959, the family then moved into their first home in Mt Wellington where they lived until 1966.

David and Sheila’s second child, Jacqui, was born in August 1965 and also lives in Waihī. She has three children, two sons and a daughter.

David and Sheila also recently became great-grandparents: one of Jacqui’s sons now has a daughter.

The Callaghans moved to the Waikato in 1966 when they went pig farming in Waiuku.

David and Sheila in Barcelona, June 2003.
David and Sheila in Barcelona, June 2003.

“Sheila was a big help when I had a two-man job to do; unfortunately, the importation of pork plus an Australian drought helped put us out of business as the barley grain from there that we ground up in a hammer mill shot up in price.”

The family made their way to Northland in 1972 where David worked in forestry and at the freezing works until he went to the Bay of Islands County Council to work in water treatment until retirement in 1992.

The couple then sold their property in Northland and hit the road in a campervan.

“It was part of our new permanent holiday lifestyle.”

They built a cabin in Waihī before continuing touring in the campervan and heading further afield. They joined the New Zealand Motor Caravan Club on a tour through Canada and Alaska.

Now, they are permanently based in Waihī where they will celebrate their wedding anniversary together with their family by going out for dinner.

After all their adventures and travels, Sheila said they were happy to stay close to home.

“[Just] sitting next to each other in the lounge, and holding hands.”

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