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Former beauty queen and navy pilot celebrate 60 years wedding bliss in Camborne

By West Briton  |  Posted: November 07, 2013

  • Former Navy pilot, Tom, and former beauty queen, Betty Wilkinson, are due to celebrate their diamond wedding today. by Colin Higgs

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A FORMER beauty queen and a Navy pilot who were famous for their fish and chip shop in Camborne are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.

In 1952 Tom and Betty Wilkinson met at a local dance in the West Midlands when Tom was working in the Navy and stationed abroad while Betty worked as an accounts clerk.

In their early years the sub-lieutenant Fleet Air Arm pilot spent several months stationed at RNAS Culdrose, a time which Betty remembers with fondness, when they "fell in love with Cornwall".

The pair, who married in 1953, moved to the county to enjoy an early retirement after Tom left the Navy to run a fish and chip shop together in the Midlands.

"We wanted something to do. Tom couldn't settle in office jobs so we opened a fish and chip shop in Pengegon, in Camborne," said Betty, a former beauty queen.

They ran the shop from 1968 to 1975 and then moved to Worcester.

"We missed Cornwall so much and craved to come back," said Betty.

"In 1984 we opened a fish and chip shop in Beacon, near Camborne, which was a huge success. Both shops were busy from the moment we opened them."

Having spent the majority of their marriage working together, Betty said that despite the hard work it was wonderful sharing her days with Tom.

She said: "My husband has always been my best friend. When he was in the Navy I always missed him. We have worked together since our twenties. The beauty of our marriage has been we have always talked to one another. If there's a problem we share it between us."

It was a strong relationship that seemed to help their businesses thrive, with Betty saying: "It has been very rewarding. We always found that the Cornish accepted us. When we came down we were warned that people wouldn't take to us, but how wrong they were. The Cornish have been very welcoming."

Wendy Wilkinson, who is married to the couple's only son, Andrew, said of the couple: "Bet still works most days in our shop, Betty's Bargains, Camborne, formerly the pound shop, but which our son lovingly renamed in honour of his beloved nan. Tom also worked there until last year but sadly his legs don't allow him to get about much these days.

"Bet could be described as a pillar of the community and is always willing to help and listen to others and offer advice. She is one of the most selfless women that I know."

She said the couple will be enjoying a celebratory dinner today, with a special surprise which she is keeping under wraps until their big day.

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