Sweethearts reunited after 60 years

Ray Smith and Kathleen Kelly
Ray Smith and Kathleen Kelly

By Cara Sulieman

A COUPLE who had a fleeting romance almost 60 years ago have reunited and plan to spend the rest of their lives together.

Ray Smith and Kathleen Kelly met on a ferry in their 20s, but split when he decided that he wouldn’t be able to support her.

But now they have been reunited after Ray, 79, placed an advert in a local newspaper and travelled to Penicuik to meet the girl he wished he’d married 58 years ago.

Ray is planning a move to Midlothian from his home in Peterborough after rekindling his love with sweetheart Kathleen.

Royal Navy

He said: “It was wonderful. We just picked up where we left off. I know we’ll be together for the rest of our lives – I’m not letting her out of my sight again.”

The pair met on a ferry to Stornoway in the 1950s.

She was 25 and off to meet a pen pal after spending time in hospital suffering from TB, and 21-year-old Ray was a sailor in the Royal Navy.

Ray said: “I saw this lovely girl on the boat. She’d been sleeping, so I just waited for her to wake up. We had such a wonderful time when we got to Stornoway.”

“Handsome sailor”

Kathleen, now 83, said that they had clicked from the start.

She said: “I remember sitting up on the boat and seeing this handsome sailor looking at me.

“Even though I lived in Penicuik and he lived in Peterborough, we felt we had a lot in common.”

A love of classical music and art brought them together and when Ray returned to the Navy they kept in touch with letters.

“No way to support her”

But Ray said that he felt his job and lack of money meant that they could never marry.

He said: “I had no education and no way of supporting her. I was just an ordinary rating in the Royal Navy, travelling the world.

“We just couldn’t really get together.”

After the split, the pair moved on with their separate lives.

Kathleen married Jimmy Batchelor, a young lecturer at Edinburgh University and worked for Blairs the drapers in the capital.

She now lives back in Penicuik and has been alone after her husband died 19 years ago.

Ray with photos of Kathleen from the 1950s
Ray with photos of Kathleen from the 1950s

In the meantime, Ray met and married Grace when he left the Navy and went on to work as an art dealer and an author.

He had three sons with his wife, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1992.

The couple then spent the last 10 years of Grace’s life travelling the world until her death in 2002.

Last month Ray decided to put an advert in the Midlothian Advertiser and Kathleen’s niece saw it and encouraged her to get in touch.

Two days later Ray was on the bus up to Penicuik.

“Old memories”

Kathleen said: “I went to meet him at the bus stop. When I saw him, I knew it could only be Raymond.

“We’ve been sitting renewing old memories. I’ve never forgotten him. I just thought at the back of my mind I’d see him again.”

And Ray is pleased that they are finally together after so much time apart.

He said: “I wish I’d got in touch with her sooner, but I didn’t want to disturb her life. For the last seven years, I’ve been very lonely since my wife died.

“She thinks we’re too old”

“When I met her, she was still the pretty girl I saw on the boat. We just picked up where we left off. We’ve done nothing but talk and remember what we did together.

“I kept saying I wish I’d married her, but I felt I couldn’t take the plunge at the time. The man who married her gave her security and a good life.

“I’d like us to get married now, but she thinks we’re a bit old. But I’m going to stay with her for the rest of our lives.”