Spalding registrar who married his own sister retires after more than 25 years
Over 35 years, he officiated at wedding ceremonies for about 4,000 couples - before making a vow of his own.
Paul Rudkin decided to retire from his role as registrar of births, deaths and marriages to give more time to supporting wife Hayley with her memorials business.
His final public duty at Spalding Registration Office – just after a buffet to mark his retirement - was to take a double marriage notice. That was on Friday, November 23. Normally, he would have expected to have been busy on the Saturday too but system maintenance meant it was left appointment-free and so a simple handover to superintendant registrar Glyn Evans brought his long service to a close.
It was pretty much by accident that he got into the role in 1983. Having worked at chartered accountants Thornton Baker in The Crescent for eight years, Paul responded to a job advert in the Spalding Guardian for a clerk and assistant cashier at Maples and Sons.
“Do you speak in public?” asked interviewer John Pounder.
“Well, I run a football team and give a speech at our end of season awards,” replied a bemused Paul.
Little did Paul know but register office weddings then were held at Maples’ premises in New Road. Mr Pounder, who was superintendant registrar, was looking for help with the service run on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council.
So Paul’s first task in the job was to spend three days poring over a huge book on the necessary processes.
The ground-floor room where ceremonies seated about 25 people was adequate but nothing grand. It looked out on to a garden but newlyweds had their photo taken beside Maples’ front door!
Paul, who lives in Gosberton Risegate and turns 61 tomorrow (Friday), said: “I do remember that I didn’t feel nervous at all taking my first ceremony. It was a weekday with probably about eight people there so it was felt to be a good first one for me.
“I’d done about 20 or 30 before getting any nerves and that was because I knew the couple getting married. I particularly didn’t want to mess up a friend’s service, but it went fine.”
A service that didn’t take place provided Paul with a memory he likens to a Monty Python sketch. Having completed ceremonies on a Saturday morning, he’d cycled to The Royal Oak in Cowbit Road and was just enjoying a second pint when he got a phone call asking him to go back to the office.
He did so and was greeted by a man accompanied by a 52-seater bus full of people from Nottingham saying: “I’ve got a wedding at 2pm!”
“That’s news to me,” replied a stunned Paul. “You haven’t given notice of marriage yet!”
It turned out that the would-be groom assumed all would be fine after he had popped his head around the door at Maples some weeks earlier and asked the receptionist: “Do you do weddings on Easter Saturday?”
However, he wasn’t too put out and everyone headed to Spalding Common Community Hall for the party with disco which - unlike the wedding - had been properly booked. The man and his fiancée – and the bus load of people – returned later in the year to tie the knot.
When the marriage side of the service and the births and deaths registration service – run by Eric and Evelyn Crofts in High Street - was brought under one roof at The Sessions House in Sheepmarket, it was a step up to a much nicer venue. For the past 16 years it has been at Linden House in Bath Lane but with the lease on the property expired, the service will soon have another new home.
That will be without Paul, though, who recalls officiating at as many as seven ceremonies before 1.30pm one Saturday which coincided with Valentine’s Day.
“I’ve loved the job,” he said. “I married my sister, which sounds a funny thing to say but I have!
“The job has changed dramatically over the years. I wasn’t wholly convinced I would carry on when registering births and deaths became part of my role too but I thought I’d give it a go and it’s become part of my life.
“Unless you’ve lost a parent or a brother or sister or child, you can’t describe how it feels and I like to think I’ve been a help to people in that half hour with them.”
It’s a testament to Paul that so many people for whom he’s been part of important events in their lives still stop him in the street for a quick word many years later. He admits that names sometimes escape him – perhaps to be expected for someone who has officiated at more than 100 weddings a year for three-and-a-half decades.