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An Hour With Shirley & Wally Tilbury

13-August-2022 | By Nadia Porter

We recently celebrated the Sovereign Platinum Jubilee – 70 years on the throne – a lifetime for most. Milestones are significant events in our lives, they denote achievement, experience and a long journey. Not everyone is lucky enough to chalk up a list. 

On the 11th of August, Wally and Shirley Tilbury will celebrate their 60th Wedding anniversary, a feat not many have achieved or are likely to achieve.

On the morning I was to meet up with the couple in their retirement village, I came down with a heavy cold and could barely get out of bed; but with the help of Sophie, their daughter-in-law, and a list of emailed questions and answers I was able to know and understand this couple’s amazing story. 

Wally Tilbury met Shirley Oxley at the Unique Ballroom dancing hall in Croydon, Surrey, United Kingdom in 1959. Back in the day, when couples met in person and not in a virtual world, the ballroom hall was the place to see, be seen and hopefully meet the love of your life. You’d spruce up every Saturday night and head to the local town hall or dance hall. So did Wally and Shirley, after spotting each other for a few weeks, Wally asked her to dance. The advantages of meeting someone face to face for the first time; of observing them week after week, slow and easy and working out the chemistry between you; not relying on photoshopped images, not rushed by urges and haste judgement. This is what was courting was all about. Getting to know the person and taking it one step at a time. The fun is in the journey to reach the destination.

They were attracted to each other by looks, personality, having fun and they both loved dancing. They became inseparable from then on. Shirley was 16 and Wally was 20.

They got married on 11 August 1962 at The Croydon Parish Church in England. Their hopes and dreams were to have a house and a family and lead a happy life. Like most couples those days the world over, couples started small and built their nest together. 

They made a flat out of three rooms in Wally’s father’s house where they lived for six months. They then moved into a house in East Grinstead, Sussex. 

Life was good and they were both working and happy. Wally as an electrician and Shirley was doing secretarial work.

They had two sons, Paul born in 1966 and Alan born in 1969. Both boys had serious health problems that needed to be resolved. The couple spent a lot of time focussing on their sons’ health in the early years of the marriage. Both boys gained full health.

Wally had always wanted to migrate to Australia but it took ten years to convince Shirley. They moved to Australia on July 31 1976. They found the move difficult, especially Wally who took about 18 months to settle in. They first lived with Wally’s brother in Mooroolbark for about 6 months. Then they rented a house in Croydon whilst their new home was being built in Mooroolbark. They basically had a few moves all around Mooroolbark and Croydon until they moved to the Links at Waterford Village 7 years ago. They love village life.

Their advice for couples today is to always communicate and to be best friends as well as husband and wife. Don’t think you have to have everything right now, plan, work hard and save for the things you want. 

Shirley describes Wally as very patient, after her father died, they had her mother move across from England and she lived with them for twenty-four and a half years.

In Australia Wally worked as an electrician and Shirley worked at Penguin Books for nearly two and a half decades. She loved that job and still meets regularly with old workmates. 

They have few regrets. They owned a beach house in Venus Bay that they wish they hadn’t sold. Wally thinks he was an electrician for too long. 

They have wonderful friends and love living the village life. They love dogs and have always had one. They enjoy travelling overseas and have done many trips to many countries. They also travel for a few months every year up North in their caravan, which they love. They meet their friends up there and they all have a blast, plus avoid the winter. Their hobbies are walking the dog, travelling, movies, lawn bowls (Wally), building wooden items (Wally), painting (Shirley) and other things provided in the Village.

What a great couple, what a romantic story. I thank them for sharing it with us and wish them many happy and healthy years to come.



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