A CYCLING champion in his youth, Brian Howarth has now reached a momentous stage in another important journey.

Mr Howarth, aged 80, celebrated 60 years of marriage to wife Joyce, also 80, despite suffering a heart bypass 18 years ago.

At one stage Mrs Howarth feared she had lost her hard-working husband, but, nearly two decades on, the jovial couple are still going strong.

They married at St Bartholomew’s Church in Westhoughton on February 6, 1954, before boarding a train to Scarborough for a week’s honeymoon.

To pay for the day, Mr Howarth sent home the £2 per month he earned from working in the Forces, and, on returning, he picked up a number of little jobs on the side — including delivering The Bolton Evening News after he finished shifts as an engineer.

The couple, who live in Chorley Road in Hulton House, between Blackrod and Westhoughton, met while cycling with Bolton Clarion Club.

Mrs Howarth said: “He was very good, while I just did it for a hobby. It was a while before I asked someone, ‘who is that strange bloke on the bike over there?’That was in 1951, and I’m glad I did.”

Mr Howarth was crowned junior and senior cycling champion for Bolton in successive years.

Cycling had to be put on the back-burner to bring up the couple’s four children, Gail, Keith, Kay and Lee, and they now have eight grandchildren.

Four-year-old Scarlet and one-year-old Nina are the couple’s first great-grandchildren.

Mr Howarth was brought up in Blackrod and Mrs Howarth in Bolton, and they chose Blackrod to open a corner shop in the early years of their marriage. After moving to Chorley Road, the couple began producing sheepskin coats.

Mrs Howarth said: “I made a coat for one of the kids. One day at Horwich Market, someone asked me where the coat had come from and they were amazed when I said I had made it. The next day, people were queuing out of the door asking if I could make one for them.”

The couple bought the house next door to use as a shop.

They will celebrate with a big family party tomorrow. Mrs Howarth said: “We’ve been very happy together. I remember once we both realised that one of us would have to stay in with the grandchildren, when they were really misbehaving, and we both had some plans.

“We both ran towards the back door and got stuck in the door trying to get out!