Monday, 14 October 2019

Groom relives honeymoon ferry drama 53 years later

Groom relives honeymoon ferry drama 53 years later

A MAN who almost literally missed the boat while on his honeymoon has retraced his steps 53 years later — thanks to the ferry company.

Peter Willis-Fleming, 81, from Park Corner, Nettlebed, returned to Ireland with his three children with a free trip on the ferry Stena Nordica.

It was on March 18, 1966 that he and his wife Carole were on their way to the Emerald Isle after being married in Chorleywood.

They drove in a Triumph Spitfire adorned with decorations reading “Just Married” to Fishguard in South Wales only to find their ferry had boarded and was ready to leave without them.

The newlyweds explained that they were on honeymoon and a member of staff managed to get the boarding ramp put back down so they could get on board.

Last year, Mr Willis-Fleming was listening to Radio 4’s Saturday Live programme when it asked for listeners who wanted to extend a belated thank-you message to get in touch.

He decided to thank the port staff for their gesture.

He was then approached by Stena Line, the ferry company, and was offered a free return trip to Rosslare. Mr Willis-Fleming, who served in the Royal Navy for 10 years, took up the offer earlier this month and was accompanied by his children, Samantha, Mark and Sophie. His wife died when she was just 55.

Mr Willis-Fleming said: “My children are all still feeling deeply sad about the loss of their mother at such a young age and it seemed very appropriate for the four of us to do this trip.

“It was significant for me because it all came from that gesture of goodwill. I didn’t expect anything and it reflects the very best side of human nature. It was an intense, emotional and joyful experience and all thanks to the generosity of the Stena Line and the empathy of its port service manager Carl Milne.”

The family posed for a photograph with members of the ferry crew on board and then enjoyed an overnight stay before returning by ferry the next day.

Mr Willis-Fleming can still remember travelling to Wales in 1966 and thought he had left the wedding reception in the afternoon in time to board the ferry. He said: “It all went well until we arrived at Fishguard. As we approached the dockyard we started to get concerned because there were no lights on.

“I was getting concerned so I pressed the horn a number of times and eventually a man came to the gate. I told him we had just got married and we had booked the ferry. He said boarding had closed half an hour before and we had literally missed the boat.

“When I told him we were on our honeymoon it was in desperation that he would let us on. He could see from the car that we had just got married.

“He vanished into the gloom and then the gates opened and the boarding ramp was lowered and up we drove.”

He said the staff were probably breaking the rules but he was grateful for their kindness.

During their eight-day honeymoon, the couple travelled across Ireland before returning via Rosslare.

Mr Willis-Fleming: “We had a brilliant time. Like most honeymooning couples, we had very little money but it was very enjoyable.

“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those people, who I assume went entirely against regulations. It restores one’s faith in humanity.”

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