A pub in Longridge was a very special place on Monday - for a very special couple.
Ronald and Agnes McLaughin returned to the White Bull on Preston Road on their anniversary day to celebrate their diamond wedding - the setting for the reception after their marriage 60 years ago on January 26. 1955.
Just 18 and 19 - “I was actually just 18 and six days and Agnes was 19!” chuckled Ronald - the teenagers were married at Alston Lane RC Church, having first met when Agnes went in to Ronald’s family business to book a coach seat for a shopping trip to Manchester.
“A Mr and Mrs Dalton were licensees at the White Bull all those years ago,” they recalled, “so it was lovely to be back there with our daughters Anita and Louise for an anniversary lunch.”
The couple’s meeting followed the McLaughin family’s takeover of Mercers Coaches, the popular firm for many years in Longridge.
What was eventually quite an empire had started in Liverpool when Ron’s great grandfather opened a cycle shop, then came a garage, a taxi and coach hire business and a car auction business run by his grandfather.
He became the main agent for Ford, rode at the city’s Velodrome and invented the first pneumatic-tyred cycle.
Ronald - always known as Ron - left Liverpool aged four with the family to escape the bombing which had reduced their Scotland Road site in the city to rubble.
They moved to Freckleton, where Ron went to the village school and then later studied at St Anne’s Technical College.
But it was when he was at the school that the family endured the tragedy of the Freckleton Air Disaster.
A cousin of Ron’s was one of the 38 children who died in a total of 61 killed, including the airmen in the US Liberator aircraft which crashed into the school and the centre of the village on August 23, 1944.
“During that time and those years, the family business ran taxis for all the RAF and American forces sites - Kirkham, Weeton, Warton - about 15 in all - so we had close connections there But I was not at school on that fateful day,” Ron remembered.
It was his father, Hugh - who will be remembered as a Longridge town councillor in the ‘50s and ‘60s - who took over Mercer’s Coaches licence in 1946, keeping the name and office at 90 Berry Lane.
The business expanded with the purchase of nearby properties such as Carters butchers and slaughterhouse.
In 1969, Ron took over as managing director and, along with Agnes, the family also ran Premier Motor Tours and Bon Chaunce in Preston, plus two travel agencies, and Ron became national and area chairman of the Bus and Coach Council. A major spin-off from Mercers Coaches was the continuation of the Longridge Tradesman’s Association by Ron and Agnes and its annual outing for the senior citizens of Longridge,
Agnes - Longridge born and bred, one of the four children of Leo and Ellen Waring with schooling at Alston Lane RC School and Winckley Square Convent - remembered the trips filling five or six coaches each year, they were so popular.
“People weren’t so adventurous away from their town or village in those days,” she stated.
“We had great times, always a trip with teas the same menu of ham, salad, chips, fruit salad and cakes...a small bottle of brandy on board if anyone felt faint which one elderly lady on one trip downed totally as we were preparing to treat her sister who felt unwell!
“And every Christmas the family, friends and committee, for which I was secretary for 22 years, would put on Victorian costumes and go carol singing around Longridge to raise funds.”
The final outing for the elderly was last year, still filling two coaches and enjoying a special tea, but Agnes saw it as a sign of the times with travel now so much more a part of everyone’s lives.
A survivor of two battles with cancer, Agnes knew how such an invasion affects sufferers.
Very early on with her schoolfriend Margaret O’Donoghue, she worked with the Longridge and Grimsargh Support Group as one of the chairmen and helped to organise many charitable events.
Ron was once chairman of governors at the former Woodville School in Longridge, Agnes being a keen golfer and lady captain of Preston Golf Club.
They have moved 15 times in Longridge, have a superb ‘escape’ villa in Portugal, may move once more “but would never move out of Longridge,” they said
“We’ve had a busy and a lovely life, doing many things others may not be able to.
“When we married at such a young age, they all shook their heads and said it wouldn’t last - but look at us now, 60 years on!
“Our recipe has been doing everything together.... hard work, working together and being together.”
A great motto for a couple who have obviously achieved all three parts of that recipe throughout their sixty years of married life.