Diamond Leyland couple celebrating 60th wedding anniversary

Ken and Kath Downing, of Leyland, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. They are pictured with their card from the Queen.
Ken and Kath Downing, of Leyland, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. They are pictured with their card from the Queen.
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A Leyland couple are shining brightly after celebrating 60 years of marriage.

Ken and Kath Downing, of Cheetham Meadow, marked the special occasion with a card from the Queen on Thursday, October 31st.

Ken (81) and Kath (79) celebrated the milestone with a surprise family party last Saturday at the Brown Hare pub in Penwortham. Some 65 loved ones, including Kath's family in Blackpool, turned up to toast the diamond couple.

Carolyn Louise Birkett, one of their six children, said: "I looked at them last Saturday and they looked so proud to see everyone. Family is everything to them.

"Mum and Dad were overwhelmed by it all. It was a nice surprise for them. It was lovely."

The pair met at a dance hall in Kirkham while Ken, who grew up in the East End of London, was training with the RAF at Weeton Barracks in Preston.

Later being based at the RAF Hospital Halton in Buckinghamshire, the young serviceman spent two years travelling back to Preston to see his future wife.

They married at St Mary Magdalene's Church in Ribbleton on October 31st, 1959, with a reception at the former Wit's End pub, when Kath was 19 and Ken was 21.

They then travelled the world, living in Cyprus, Germany, Birmingham and Ilfracombe while Ken dedicated 12 years to the RAF.

After leaving the forces, the couple settled in Preston, where Mr Downing took up work in the motor-trade while his spouse was a cleaner at the former Preston Polytechnic. They went on to have five girls and one boy, as well 18 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

"They received a card from the Queen on their anniversary and I thought that was wonderful. To reach 60 years of marriage is an absolutely massive achievement. I told them we were going to buy them a medal," Carolyn said.

The couple also lived in Walton-le-Dale, before moving to their current hometown of Leyland, where they've been for the past 17 years.

Ken has dedicated many years to the Lostock Hall Royal British Legion Club, including its annual Poppy Appeal, with Kath helping him to distribute poppies and collect donation boxes.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic and good on him," said Carolyn.

"He received a certificate for long service in 2017 and I felt so proud when I took him to pick it up. It's brilliant that he's spent all these years doing all sorts of things for a good cause."

So, what is the secret to their successful marriage?

"Growing up I never heard my parents argue and we've always had a good, solid family unit," Carolyn added.

"My dad's had both heart problems and cancer but Mum has 100% supported him through it all and they do everything together.

"They're just good friends and still hold hands while walking down the street. We always look at them and say they're so sweet."