A devoted couple believed to be Britain’s longest gay pairing have celebrated 55 YEARS together.
Proud Ted Spring, 78, and Paul Pollard, 77, first met in a club in 1960 and said it was love at first sight.
They have been inseparable ever since and claim to still be as happy together as the day they met.
Paul was a 22-year-old chef at the time and Ted was then an Able Seaman on shore leave from HMS Vigilant.
The pair met in 1960 at The Lockyer Hotel, which for many years was one of only two gay bars in Plymouth, Devon.
Ted had to go back to sea for over a year but they remained faithful to each other and they moved together following his return.
The couple, of Plymouth, later ran restaurants, clubs and guest houses and are now both retired.
Ted said: “I knew from the minute I saw him that this is someone I could spend the rest of my life with.
“I was chatting to a friend of his when he came over. He bought me a drink and we just started talking – he’s never bought me a drink since mind you!”
It wasn’t until 1967 that gay and bisexual men were legally allowed to be together and social stigma surrounding homosexuality made it difficult for the pair to admit their feelings publicly.
Ted said: “I just wanted to be normal.
“I’d had girlfriends in the past, but it never felt right. I always knew deep down; I just couldn’t tell anyone.
“I hate hurting people, and that’s why I struggled to come to terms with who I was. When I first met Paul, I was actually engaged to a woman.
“We’d been together before, split and got back together – I just couldn’t face putting her through all that again by telling her I was gay. Luckily, she moved away to London for a job and actually met another man who she fell in love with.
“I was always frightened by the gay side of life, but Paul didn’t care. He always used to say, ‘What’s wrong with being queer? What’s wrong with that? Who cares what people think!’
“He showed me that no matter who you love, or what you love, love is beautiful and, after being with Paul for 55 years, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.”
Despite the longevity of their relationship the pair have never had any desire to get married.
Ted said: “When you have lived together as long as we have you don’t really need a piece of paper – it wouldn’t really mean anything to us.”
Paul said they have always been very open about their sexuality but have had very little negativity.
Paul said: “We are still very much in love.
“It was very difficult back in the 60s financially really because we wanted to buy a house but couldn’t get a mortgage as they wouldn’t consider our wages jointly as we were not married.
“We did have a hard time with things like that but not on the streets. We used to keep to gay bars. We were always working, always busy.”
Upon quitting the Navy in 1962, Ted got a job working as Paul’s assistant at The Green Lantern.
From 1967 the pair ran Scheherazade, a guesthouse in the city centre and a restaurant in a gambling club, the Pussycat Club, based in the Old Palace Theatre.
Between 1972 and 1986 they managed the Laurels Country Club on the city’s outskirts.
They went on to run a smaller guest house, The Breakaway, until they retired in 2000.
Reflecting on their time together, Ted said he preferred growing up while homosexuality was illegal.
He said: “Society has changed so much. I think it was better when it was against the law, if I’m being honest.
“We were like a big family; we all knew who we were and where we could go. You’d go out and visit people on a Sunday for tea and things like that.
“We always used to go for drinks on a Saturday night at The Lockyer Hotel. It was only a little place, but we were used to it and the staff knew us all.
“The country has changed so much, but prejudice still goes on.
“If a lot more people had a better attitude, it would allow for a greater portion of society to live their lives.
“We have not had any trouble at all in the time we have been together but I think acceptance of gay relationships is less tolerant today than it was years ago.
“Over the years we haven’t had much prejudice, if people don’t like it then they don’t talk to us.
“But we haven’t found much of that at all, because people get to like us quite quickly.
“People realised we were just old people having fun, that’s what we’ve always been.”