Christmas Eve had a special surprise in store for Balclutha couple Patrick and Jeannetta McArthur.
Among the usual batch of Christmas cards from their three children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren was a special letter and card from the Queen.
“It was a huge surprise,” Mrs McArthur said.
“We really didn’t know it was coming, but our daughter-in-law Cathy had contacted Internal Affairs and advised them about our upcoming 65th wedding anniversary, and they did the rest.
“It was wonderful to get a card on the day from Her Majesty,” she said.
On December 24, 1955, Patrick McArthur married Jeannetta Robertson at the Chalmers Presbyterian Church, in Timaru.
“It was a fine and sunny day and we had an evening wedding in the church, before heading round to Jeannetta’s uncle Allan’s lovely garden at Nile St, for the pictures to be taken,” Mr McArthur said.
The couple had known each other for several years, originally beginning their friendship in Invercargill while studying.
“We met through our common interest of swimming.’’
Mr McArthur studied engineering before joining the Department of Agriculture, and eventually moving to Timaru.
Mrs McArthur studied and practised nursing in Christchurch before also moving to Timaru.
Once married, the couple reunited in Balclutha, where Mr McArthur had been transferred.
He eventually left government service, and set up his own agriculture contracting business in Clutha, where he innovated farm engineering solutions such as mobile sheep showers.
“In those days we had to make everything ourselves. Today, I wouldn’t know what machinery they use on farms as it’s changed so much,” he said.
In the early days the couple said they loved attending the weekly dances run by Joe Brown in Dunedin.
“That’s how you met people then. Everyone always went about in groups and there was always someone in your group who could play a musical instrument. We had to entertain ourselves, but we always had a lot of fun and we had proper bands on the stage each dance night,” Mr McArthur said.
Raising their children Niven, Struan and Tui meant shared family activities like swimming and surf life›saving.
“We were all members of the Balclutha Amateur Swimming Club and the Kaka Point Surf Life Saving Club.
“We had a small bach near the beach and spent many an hour out there,” Mr McArthur said.
Asked for the secret to 65 years of marriage Mrs McArthur said it was all about ‘‘give and take’’.
‘‘You need a balance to survive this long.’’
Mr McArthur added culinary skills into the formula.
“Jeannetta learned cooking from her mother, who taught it at Mackenzie College, in Fairlie.
‘‘She’s a great cook.’’