Couple who had been married for more than 60 years died within two weeks of each other

Philip and Barbara Jean White at their 60th wedding anniversary. Photo: Paul Smith

Philip and Barbara Jean White at their 60th wedding anniversary. Photo: Paul Smith - Credit: Paul Smith

A couple who had been married for more than 60 years died within two weeks of each other.

Philip and Barbara Jean White, aged 91 and 89 respectively, were both raised in Rawtensall, Lancashire and moved to Norfolk later in their lives.

Mr White, who died on December 27, showed an interest in sport from an early age and ended up having quite the talent, playing football, cricket and later golf.

Brass bands were popular in the area when he was growing up, so he also enjoyed playing the clarinet.

However despite passing his 11+ exams, Mr White refused to study at the local, highly acclaimed, grammar school and instead left secondary school without qualifications and took an apprenticeship in a sheet metal at a factory.


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Mrs White, nee Spencer, grew up just four miles from her future husband, and went to the school at St James' Church before continuing her education at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School.

Throughout her teenage years Mrs White enjoyed playing tennis, but at 17 was struck with rheumatic fever and was hospitalised for months. She recovered, but needed to be careful with her health for the rest of her life.

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After repeating her lower sixth form year due to her illness, Mrs White went on to teacher training college in Derbyshire, specialising in mathematics.

And while her early teaching years were spent in Manchester she soon took up a post at St Mary's Church of England school in Rawtenstall.

Mr White's career, meanwhile, was interrupted in 1943 when at 18 he jointed the Fleet Air Arm.

He remained in the UK throughout the rest of the war - he had been destined for overseas service but could not sail with his unit after catching a severe case of chicken pox and being confined in isolation in hospital for several weeks.

The ship on which he had sailed was actually sunk by enemy action, and all on board were lost at sea.

So Mr White instead worked on the maintained and repair of fighter aircraft, where he was also required to be a passenger for test flights.

Some years after the war, in 1953, the pair got married and stayed in Lancashire.

During this time, Mr White excelled at sport, and thrived in football, playing for both Clitheroe and Barnoldswick.

His high point was turning out for Burnley Reserves when Burnley Football Club was a top team in the old first division.

But cricket was his first love and he played in the Lancashire League for Rawtenstall from 1938 to 1968.

He faced some notorious players, including fast bowler Wes Hall and batsman Sir Everton Weeks.

At the time Mr Hall was rated the fastest bowler in the world, but Mr White said when he faced him: 'The main problem was during his run-up. I was often distracted by his feet... he worse size 13 cricket boots!'

And Mr White was one of the few amateurs who could claim he bowled out Sir Weekes.

Mr White is still revered in his home town for his cricketting achievements and the club flag was flown at half-mast as a toekn of respect when he died.

Mrs White, meanwhile, took a job at her old grammar school in 1958, where she was known as Ma White for her motherly persona.

In 1980 Mr and Mrs White moved to Norfolk, where Mr White took on a challenging management appointment at Laurence Scott and Electromotors in Norwich and Mrs White was taken on at Notre Dame High School where she worked for 14 years.

They lived in Brooke and although Mr White retired from cricket he did take up golf. Together they joined Cringleford Bridge Club and were very sociable.

Mr White was a member at both Eaton and Bungay golf clubs, and he became captain and president at the former.

He also became a freemason when he joined Norwich's Lodge of Perseverance in 1997.

Mrs White contributed heavily to village life and became a parish councillor and chaired Brooke WI for two, three-year terms.

She joined the local sewing group and was a long-serving church warden at St Peter's Church, where she was instrumental in securing an extension to the church.

The couple's friend, Paul Smith, paid tribute to them at their joint funeral, where 170 people attended on January 16.

Mr Smith said: 'Philip and Jean were a lovely couple. At Philip's 90th birthday celebration the toast was 'To Philip White – 90 not out!'

'Subsequently, he honourably declared at 91. Jean chose to declare at 89, simply because she felt it was time to join Philip.

'She would be well aware that 89 and 91 add up to 180 years between them.

'Significantly, there are 180 degrees in a straight line, both Philip and Jean were as straight as a gun barrel and driven by a Christian ethic.

'They enjoyed a long impressive innings and will be lovingly remembered by the lucky people here today.

'Well batted!'

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