A COUPLE celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on Thursday.

Don and Val Eccles were married on July 30, 1960 in Coniscliffe Road Methodist Chapel, in Darlington.

Don was introduced to Val by her mother at a badminton match, and later the couple discovered they had many similar interests.

Don was a member of Pierremont Methodist Chapel, and Val was a member of Coniscliffe Road Chapel.

They both played piano at a good level and were both interested in badminton.

Don played badminton around the county and in local competitions for Durham County under 21s.

He also trained as a television and audio engineer.

Val left Darlington High School and trained as a teacher in Bristol.

During his national service as a ground radar technician in the Royal Air Force, Don was in Iraqin1958, when the Crown Prince was assassinated in a coup and the camp in Habbaniya, 50 miles from Bagdad was taken over by the Iraqi army, and there was no communication between the UK and Iraq for a month.

Don had worked at the airport on the radar, which was no longer possible, but he stayed in Iraq for ten months, as it was hoped that the airport could be used as a staging post for planes going to the far east.

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During that time, he played cricket, swam, played basketball, and went to the cinema.

He was then sent to Cyprus, where British troops were being attacked on a daily basis, though there was still time to play badminton, and Don was the runner up in the Middle East Championships.

After college Val taught at Eastbourne Girls School, and she spent many years as a member of Darlington Pilgrim Players.

She and Don took part in Gilbert and Sullivan shows.

In1967, the family moved to Gainford, where they have lived ever since.

Val taught at the village school for 30 years while Don ran his own business.

Don had been a member of Gainford Choral Society for 50 years until its demise.

The Choral Society had a number of tours in Europe and the United States where Val sang in the concerts, some of the members even visited Russia.

Don is now a member of Barnard Castle Choral Society and has sung with the North Yorkshire Choral Society in Ripon Cathedral and with the Durham Choral society in Durham Cathedral

They both play the organ, Val is a member of the WI, Don is a keen gardener.

They enjoy cruising and have visited many countries in the world.

India will have to wait as the trip was cancelled due to Covid-19.

They have a son & daughter, Mark and Jill, and grandchildren Jasmine and Max.

Val and Don would have had a celebration similar to their golden wedding but are unable to do so because of the current restrictions.