When Shirley and Allan George made their wedding vows to each other in front of family and friends at Christ Anglican Church, they could hardly have imagined that their union would still be going strong 70 years later.

Although the years have wearied them, the couple’s love remains strong and their philosophy for a successful marriage has always been “love and tolerance”.

While they both agree that “being good friends” is also a necessity, Allan has often joked that “letting Shirley be the boss” was essential.

Shirley Margaret Toole and Allan John George first met through a mutual friend Brian Booth – Shirley had noticed Allan sitting on the back of a truck which belonged his employer, a builder. 

Because he looked familiar, Shirley made more inquiries and discovered that the young carpenter was a cousin to twin brothers she once played tennis with at high school in Bathurst. 

Allan was a local lad born at Gunnedah in August 1928. He grew up in a family of seven boys and one girl on Premer Station, where his English mother had been visiting her brother when his parents met. He was apprenticed to Gunnedah builder Jack Scrimgeour after a short stint working with a local plasterer. 

Shirley, meanwhile, had been born in Oberon in January 1929 and came to Gunnedah around the time of her 21st birthday. She was working at Radio Station 2MO as a book-keeper, a job she held for all of her working life. 

The couple married at Christ Church, Gunnedah, on March 7, 1953. Shirley’s sister Joyce McAndrew was her matron-of-honour while Allan’s brother Lionel was the best man, with Shirley’s cousin Janelle Chudleigh (Rabe) the flowergirl.  

The wedding reception was held at the Small Town Hall – which later became the Smithurst Theatre – before a honeymoon on the Gold Coast.

Allan George built their family home in Albion Street and together they raised their two daughters, Wendy and Vicki, who were very involved in the Gunnedah Swimming Club. This opened a whole new world to the couple as they travelled to swimming carnivals around the district and beyond. Shirley served as the club’s secretary for many years and they were both great supporters of coach Eric Arnold and his wife Pam who ran the pool kiosk. Shirley was later honoured with life membership of the club and until recent years, she and Allan always attended the annual Deb of the Year Ball swimming club fundraiser.

When the girls spread their wings and made their own lives in the world, the couple immersed themselves into the community, volunteering for the Meals on Wheels service for more than four decades, with Allan honoured with life membership of the Gunnedah Woodturners Club where he shared his carpentry skills. He also volunteered at Yallambee Homes helping out with maintenance work, while they both became Friends of Waterways Wildlife Park helping Nancy Small in her endeavours to look after native animals.

Clean-up Australia Day has always been their passion and the couple became involved in the Tidy Towns committee when the community event first started, picking up countless bags of litter year after year. In 2013, Shirley and Allan were presented with the Max and Mikie Maas Memorial Good Neighbour Award on Australia Day. 

As keen members of the Gunnedah Bushwalking Club, Shirley and Allan explored their own region but also ventured overseas enjoying trips to the UK, Europe, New Zealand, America, Canada, Alaska and Fiji as well as destinations all over Australia.

Their four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren have also been a big part of their lives giving them much joy as they watched them grow.

Although reluctant to leave their family home, advancing years began to weary them so Shirley and Allan made the decision some years ago to downsize to the unit they owned in Barber Street, right next to Shirley’s sister Joyce. 

Here the couple’s daughters organised a ‘drop-in’ afternoon tea for their parents, with friends from all walks of life calling in to have a ‘cuppa’ and share in the platinum anniversary of this amazing couple. 

Shirley and Allan were delighted to receive congratulatory messages from Gunnedah mayor Jamie Chaffey, regional MPs, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, and the Governor General David Hurley – there was even a message of congratulations from King Charles and his wife Camilla as well as Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese.

Although their days of volunteering are over and their travels around the world are a fond memory, Allan and Shirley look back over the past 70 years with no regrets.

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