Norman and Marjorie Hotchkin may be the oldest couple in Lincolnshire – and are certainly one of the oldest in Britain.
The couple, who live at Deeping St James, have a combined age of 197 years and have been married for 69 of them.
In June, Norman will reach the grand age of 100, a milestone that will be celebrated with a service of thanksgiving – Methodism has been an important part of both their lives – followed by a lunch party for family. That includes daughter Ruth Scholfield and her husband John, their son Mark and his wife Janet, plus five grandsons and seven great grandchildren.
Old age has not diminished their enjoyment of life.
Marjorie (98) says: “I would say I am happier in my really old age than I have ever been in my life, and I really mean it. I am surrounded by so much love and care. I have never known a time quite like it.”
Norman too says he has never been happier and adds: “I am very well looked after by my wife, my daughter and daughter-in-law.”
However, Norman probably wouldn’t disagree with Marjorie: he says they have had their arguments in life, but adds: “It always ended up with me saying I am sorry!”
Marjorie says: “You don’t argue much with Norman though because he just doesn’t say anything. Ever so frustrating he is. You keep trying to make him angry and he just sits there.”
That suggests Marjorie is the livelier of the two and that is borne out when she admits to having “lots of boyfriends” before she met Norman at a concert given by young members of the Methodist church. Norman, a farmer in Whaplode, went to his village chapel, and Marjorie, a war-time nurse working at Holbeach Hospital, went to the chapel in Holbeach, so it wasn’t until the concerts that the different groups met.
They courted for 18 months and married in 1945 – Marjorie opting for a wedding dress in lace, something not “on coupons” in the post-war austerity years. Unfortunately the precious material was accidently left on the train on the return journey from Nottingham. Marjorie was also late for her wedding because her taxi driver took the long route, and it snowed, so things didn’t auger well for their marriage.
Luckily for them, their life together has turned out well, possibly because they both share a deep faith. Norman was very involved in the Methodist chapel, where both his father and grandfather worshipped. He was chapel steward from the age of 28, something he didn’t give up until a few years before he and Marjorie moved to Deeping St James in 2003. Norman was also a Sunday School teacher. He’s the oldest old boy of Moulton Grammar School, a former school governor at Whaplode and was on the NFU executive for the Spalding area. As well as playing tennis, he played hockey for Holbeach and Long Sutton and was one of the founder members of the Spalding club.
It was important to both of them to be part of the community of Whaplode. Marjorie was a local preacher for about 60 years, taught at Sunday School and played the organ as well as running the Women’s Fellowship. However, they didn’t socialise much, never smoked or drank alcohol, although Marjorie admits: “I have a little sherry sometimes but Dad looks a little disapproving.”
They are both now members of the Methodist chapel at Deeping St James, where Marjorie still plays the organ occasionally on Sundays and goes to Fellowship meetings.
Marjorie says: “We have had a quiet life really but we have been happy.”
Norman, naturally, doesn’t disagree. He says: “They have been happy years. I couldn’t have had a better wife.”