After 60 years of wedded bliss, September 23 has been a diamond day for well-known Angus couple Alan and Irene Stewart.
But the sweethearts have another important date circled on their calendar – not too far away.
That’s when they’ll pop on their dancing shoes and be back on the floor to finally enjoy the shared passion which brought them together and has endured a lifetime.
They have four children – Dorothy, Janice, Alan and Elaine – as well as seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
And the couple whose home has been in Forfar for the last 47 years have missed face-to-face contact with farther flung family members during the pandemic.
But the other big gap in their life has been the absence of the Scottish dances across Angus and beyond which have kept them on their toes into their 80s.
It’s why Banchory Legion on November 6 with The Garioch Blend will be the best belated diamond anniversary present they can give each other.
“We love our dancing – it’s what keeps us happy,” said Irene, who hails from the Mearns village of Auchenblae and worked as a cook at Stracathro Hospital.
She met Brechiner Alan at the dancing in the town’s Temperance Hall – the City Road venue affectionately known locally as the ‘sweat box’.
And while the young joiner’s good looks caught Irene’s eye, she was just as interested in what his feet were doing.
“I told him if he didn’t learn to dance, he couldn’t be my boyfriend,” she quipped.
“He had a little touch of rhythm, and he tells everyone he’s been a good little soldier learning to dance properly since then!”
Irene, 79, added: “We were engaged within a year and married at St Ninian’s Church in Brechin within another year.”
Joiner Alan, now 80, worked with Tayside firms including Charles Gray and Hall & Tawse.
His retiral saw the couple step out several times a week to enjoy their passion for Scottish dancing and the many friendships they made.
For years pre-pandemic, a typical week would include trips to Kingsmuir, Montrose and Laurencekirk for regular afternoon or evening dances.
Daughter Elaine said: “They have really missed their dancing and the social side of it.
“They were out several times a week and as well as the physical aspect, remembering all of the dances really keeps their minds sharp.
“They can still show us what real dancing is – the family all love seeing them on the floor together.”
Alan and Irene are also well-known faces in rural Deeside, having spent a couple of seasons as wardens at the Banchory Lodge park where they still have a caravan.
Irene added: “We love it up there and that’s why we’re really looking forward to Banchory Legion with the Garioch Blend – they are our favourite band.
“We love our Scottish dancing and it means we can’t go anywhere without each other. I need him and he needs me.
“My best friend is my husband and I think that’s the secret to being married as long as we have.”
Irene added: “We’ve missed seeing people at the dances during all of this.
“I think some of us oldies are still a wee bit apprehensive about getting back into the halls and dancing, but we don’t know how our friends have got on and it will be lovely to see them again.”