IT was love at first sight for a St Ives couple who celebrated 50 years of marriage on Friday (August 17) following a chance meeting as teenagers. Derek Earleff, then stationed at Mildenhall in the RAF, was 17 in 1954 when he went to a dance at the Corn

Derek and Jean on their wedding day in 1957.

IT was love at first sight for a St Ives couple who celebrated 50 years of marriage on Friday (August 17) following a chance meeting as teenagers.

Derek Earleff, then stationed at Mildenhall in the RAF, was 17 in 1954 when he went to a dance at the Corn Exchange, in St Ives.

There he met Jean Reed, an 18-year-old coil winder, who was there with a friend.

Derek, who was born in West Cowick, Humberside, said: "I saw this beautiful young lady in a stunning turquoise dress and I said: 'That's the girl for me'.

"Some people do not believe in love at first sight, but for me it was definitely love at first sight when I saw Jean.

"After she agreed to a dance with me we spent the whole night dancing."

While they were courting, Derek would hitchhike from Mildenhall to St Ives most Wednesdays to visit Jean and take her dancing at the Corn Exchange.

"It was a real social highlight," said Jean, who was born in Oxford Road, St Ives. "It cost 3s 6d to get in and I often had to foot the bill for Derek because he hardly ever came with any money.

"I certainly wasn't attracted to him for his money!"

The couple have shared many funny moments, including the time Derek was introduced to Jean's family.

"Jean's sister came running up to me and patted me on the checks to say 'hello'. The next thing I knew people were laughing because she had left soot all over my face. It was so embarrassing, but because everyone was laughing it made me feel really welcome and part of the family."

The couple, who live in Green Leys, and have a son, Brian, were engaged in July 1956 and married at All Saints' Church, St Ives, on August 17, 1957. They spent their honeymoon in Great Yarmouth and their wedding photo was printed in The Hunts Post.

Derek puts his long and happy marriage down "to trusting one another, always looking out for each other and always settling an argument before going to bed".

Jean said: "It is about always being supportive of each other."

To mark their golden wedding anniversary, a party for family and friends was held at the Dolphin Hotel, in St Ives, on Sunday.