Old-fashioned Bolton Romeo renews wedding vows early – as terminal cancer diagnosis threatens 60th anniversary

An old fashioned romantic from Bolton who promised his wife to renew their wedding vows on their 60th anniversary has held the ceremony two months early after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Ellis Coakey, 84, had always wanted to give wife Ellen, 83, a diamond anniversary to remember by recreating their wedding from 1954 – so he could throw her the party the newly weds could not afford first time round.

But last summer the former plumbing engineer was diagnosed with lung cancer and it was feared he would not be well enough to keep his promise.

However despite his illness, Mr Coakey secretly kept to his word and proposed again to former coat factory machinist Ellen – suggesting the ceremony be brought forward.

The couple – who have eight great-grandchildren – renewed their vows in a ceremony at Farnworth Care Home, near Bolton, attended by family, friends and care home staff.

Mr Coakey said: “It’s something that I promised years ago and I was determined to do it.

”I always said that when we come to the 60th anniversary rather than forget about everything we will renew the vows. I never break a promise as long as I can help it. If I say I will do something I will do it.

“I had planned this years ago, but it fell by the wayside. This is the celebration we always said we’d do and I’m really pleased we’ve done it.”

‘BIG ROMANTIC’: Ellis and Ellen’s wedding vow renewal (Cavendish Press)

The pair met in 1952 as Ellis was friends with Ellen’s brother, and they courted for two years before getting married on May 8 1954 at St. Sebastian’s Church in Salford with only two other people in attendance.

The marriage licence at the time cost three-and-a-half crowns. The keen dancers went on to have two daughters – Adrienne, 53, and 58-year-old Elaine – and also eight grandchildren.

They were initially due to renew vows on their golden anniversary until cancer struck their son-in-law Paul Hilton, 60.

He was at Sunday’s ceremony to see Ellis, who served with the Royal Engineers in Egypt as part of his National Service, plant a kiss on former sewing machinist Ellen as they celebrated more than sixty years of happiness together.

Mr Coakey added: “We always said that we would renew our vows but we were waiting until the official anniversary on May 8. But then things started to progress with the cancer so I said bring it forward and we will get it done.

“We didn’t even have parties on our 25th or 50th anniversaries so this is the first big get together.”

Mr Coakey has praised the treatment at the care home after he was left with no option but to move in as Ellen could no longer look after him at the home they have shared in Over Hulton, near Bolton, for the last 18 years.

He added: “The staff here have been so good and put on a buffet on and some were saying they were gutted they weren’t coming so I invited them too.

”I’m going to be living with them for the next few months or years or however long so I had to ask them to come.”

THEN AND NOW: Ellis and Ellen’s wedding day in 1954 (Cavendish Press)

Ellen joked that the pair had lasted so long because they were ‘a pair of idiots’. She added: “He is a big romantic and he’s been very good to me.

”It was a big surprise and I knew nothing about his plans. If that’s what he wants to do then that’s what I will do.

“It was a shock when he told me about the cancer. But it’s there and we’ve got to face up to it. There’s no point hiding from it now.

“But we’ve never been apart in all the years we have been together. We’ve never had a period apart. We’ve always been together as a family and we will be for as long as we have left.

“It’s been hard watching Ellis suffer, because we’ve never been apart. We’ve always been together. We do everything together. But now we’re in this situation, we’ve just got on with it.

“All the staff at the home have been great – I can’t thank them enough for the help they’ve given us.”

Daughter Adrienne Hilton, 53, said: “It was a lovely day and a fantastic little service. Although I was happy to see mum and dad renewing the vows it was a day of mixed emotions with the news we have already had.

“Everyone was absolutely devastated about the news last summer but I think given what we have got to face having the wedding vows renewed was a lovely idea.  My dad is a big softy really but men don’t usually like to show their feelings.

”They’ve been together such a long time and they have been a wonderful mum and dad so we will support them with anything they want. They are adored by the grandkids.”

Jacinta Hodgson, activities co-ordinator at the home, said: “I only met Ellis a few weeks ago and I just thought it was so lovely to do what they have done and now I’ve got to know him I’ve been able to see just what a lovely guy he is.

“I can’t stop talking about him and Ellen at home because it’s so sweet. It’s just lovely after all these years together.”

Story and pictures via Cavendish Press.

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