A HAPPY couple who have spent their lives with a focus on "each other" and "togetherness", have celebrated 70 years of marriage.

Norman and Joan Etheridge, who were born and bred in Bury, and spent the first half of their married life in Radcliffe, marked their platinum anniversary with a large family celebration.

When asked the key to their long marriage, Mrs Etheridge said: "Respect your marriage vows, be sure to do things together, and remember that family is important."

The couple, aged 96 and 91 respectively, met on the dancefloor of Bury's Palais-de-dance. Formerly situated next to Bolton Street railway station, the Palais was widely regarded as Bury's best dance hall. Many young men and women attended the venue from the age of 14, until the time they were married; it was where many courtships began.

"That was the haunt when they were younger", said eldest daughter Margaret Bingham, aged 69. "It was the place to go in those days."

Norman and Joan were wed at St George's Church in Heap Bridge on June 25, 1949.

They spent a few years living with parents before moving to their own home in Brook Street, Radcliffe, in about 1954.

Twelve months later, they gave birth to their first of three daughters, Margaret, who now lives in the Lake District. Their other daughters are Barbara, aged 67, who now lives in Australia, and Andrea, aged 60, who lives in Eastbourne.

"They have always done everything together", Mrs Bingham said of her parents.

"They have always been very independent and remain so. Even though dad suffered a stroke last Christmas, they still do all of their gardening, housekeeping and cooking together.

"They were fantastic parents. It must have been a struggle but they just got on with it. We never wanted for anything and enjoyed lots of nice holidays."

Mrs Etheridge spent her early career working at a confectionary shop and bakery in Croft Lane, Hollins, before taking up work as a weaver in the mills.

"Mum was a fantastic baker", Mrs Bingham said. "She used to do a wonderful chocolate log, as well as ginger cakes and all sorts of other delicious things. She used to make and decorate a lot of wedding cakes for people."

Meanwhile, Mr Etheridge was employed as an engineer by Mather & Platt, working at several mills.

In 1988, the couple moved to Eastbourne, on the southeast coast, to be nearer to their youngest daughter.

Their later years saw Mrs Etheridge become a champion archer at Langney Sports and her grandchildren have followed in her footsteps by taking up the hobby.

To mark their 70th anniversary, a cake was made for the couple and a large family party was held at their home in Hampden Park.