Truly romantic start for diamond duo

Sally and Michael Tanner with family and friends at their diamond wedding party
Sally and Michael Tanner with family and friends at their diamond wedding party

A snowball down the back of the neck was Sally Tanner’s first introduction to the man she later married.

She and Michael Tanner were 15 at the time and met after he and his brother went round to her grandparents’ house to ask to sweep the drive.

The wedding day, June 14, 1958

The wedding day, June 14, 1958

After the snowball fight, however, it was a few years until their relationship really took off.

They celebrated their diamond wedding yesterday with a tea party at The Martlets care home, Fairlands, East Preston.

Sally said: “We knew each other when we were 15, then didn’t meet up again until we were 21 and were married at 23.”

Born in Southfields, Michael went to school at St Edward’s Oxford and did his National Service in the Royal Marines.

Sally was born in Bedford and educated in Wimbledon at The Study Prep, an independent school for girls which celebrates its 125th anniversary on Saturday.

She said: “When we were 21, he and his brother turned up on the doorstep. He wanted to take me out and they found out the road I lived in but not the house number. His brother said ‘we will knock on every door then’, which they did, but I was out.

“Later the telephone rang and it was him. I quite liked his voice. We went to a dance. It was lovely, our first evening. We got engaged within months.”

They were married at St Paul’s Church, Southfields, on June 14, 1958, and have two daughters, Judy and Deborah, and one granddaughter, Kirra.

Michael was a member of Thames Rowing Club and regularly rowed at the Henley Royal Regatta. He worked at the family firm, Tanners Brothers Motors in Fulham, and when he retired 35 years ago, they moved to Ferring.

Sally said: “We wanted to be by the sea and looked from Littlehampton to Rottingdean. We chose Ferring, it was the last bungalow we looked at after four days and I said ‘this is it’.”

Michael set up his own window cleaning and gardening business, which was very successful.

The couple became involved in village life, especially with animals and nature. Michael had a particular interest in bats and trees, and was tree warden for a period.

He was also chairman of Ilex Conservation Group for three years and instigated a project that saw four interpretation boards produced for the seafront and Ilex Avenue, the tree-lined lane linking Goring and Ferring. Sally said she did some of the artwork for the boards as she had a keen interest in art and botany.

The couple have done a lot of volunteeer work with animals, including rehoming hedgehogs, and Michael was a sidesman at St Andrew’s Church in Ferring.

Sally said: “Michael has worked pretty hard. He has done a lot for the village.”

The couple, now 83, did everything together until Michael became ill in November last year. After a period in hospital, he moved to The Martlets in January.

Sally said she wanted to have the anniversary party for all the people who have helped them adjust.