Looking back on Gill and Malcolm Clarke’s 60 years of marriage, the key ingredient, they say, is communication. That’s not quite how their love story began.
Gill was vaguely aware of Malcolm, but really only because one of her friends was interested in this “Teddy Boy”, with his slick blonde haircut, stovepipe jeans and brothel creeper shoes. Gill meanwhile, was more concerned with sports and athletics, and didn’t really pay much attention to the boys. The only thing that she and Malcolm had in common was the youth club to which they belonged. By chance one day, Gill walked past Malcolm in the Manor House that was home to their youth club. She took the initiative on behalf of her friend, and asked Malcolm if he’d be interested in dating her friend. “No, thanks,” said Malcolm, “but I’d like to take you out.” “Dream on” said Gill. Undeterred, Malcolm persisted, until in June 1962, Gill and Malcolm were married in the United Kingdom.
These were not great times in Britain. The swinging sixties gave way to swirling chaos. By 1974, the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland had resulted in a state of emergency being declared. Two ‘hung’ elections saw the country descend in to chaos, the final straw being the three-day work week, instituted to try and help the country conserve electricity in the face of a miner’s strike. By then, Gill’s parents were living in New Zealand, and so the couple, with their children, Tony and Nicky, followed them out.
Malcolm found work initially at the Riverlea milk factory, before finding a career in Retail at Smith & Brown, and then Forlongs, where he worked for more than 25 years, consistently earning top salesman honours. Gill began a long career in the cosmetic industry, starting at the D.I.C. (originally the Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand Ltd) department store cosmetics counter, to become the department manager and buyer for three D.I.C. stores. After a stint working for Michael Hill, Gill and Malcolm moved to Cambridge where Gill worked as a Revlon consultant and Retail Manager. Following her retirement, Gill worked in a friend’s antiques store.
As newly minted Kiwis, the couple thought about buying a Volkswagon Kombi, until they realised they wouldn’t comfortably fit in one. Instead, they spontaneously traded the family car in on a Bedford van and caravan, and spent many happy years touring New Zealand with their family. Coromandel’s own Long Bay is one of their favourite holiday spots. The family also used to travel back to the UK regularly, but as costs increased, Bali became more attractive, with an estimated 20 odd trips over their time together.
Today Gill and Malcolm are living happily in Pauanui, where they just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with their family including three grandchildren. Among many well wishes, they’ve received messages of congratulations from the Queen, the Prime Minister and Governor General.
Pressed on the secrets of their success, Malcolm and Gill admit that it hasn’t all been picnics and holidays, but they agree they have a few words to live by. Gill says,”right from the outset there’s been no “his”or “mine” in the household, it’s always been ours.” She goes on to say: “Don’t let anyone change you, and don’t take anyone for granted.”
Pictured is Gill and Malcolm Clarke recently celebrated 60 years of marriage.