Ray Gordon will never forget the first glimpse he had of his future wife sipping sherry in a wide-brimmed hat.
At 18 years old, Berna was attending her first wedding at Fortwilliam House on the grounds of the now Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs. The sherry was her very first taste of an alcoholic beverage. She remembers how it tasted like medicine.
“That was the first wedding I was old enough to be invited to,” she explained. “Ray’s first cousin was marrying my first cousin. I was asking my mother about the aunt of the groom and she told me that she had two sons named Kenneth and Ray. 'One of them is married,' she had told me, 'but I can’t remember which one.'
"However, she said that both of them were very clever. Ray and I never spoke or danced together at the wedding but he spotted me at the sherry reception. The sherry was vile stuff and tasted like medicine.
Berna’s aunt noticed a spark between them as they struck up a conversation following the wedding.
“In those days the wedding day broke up at 6pm. I was waiting for my brother to bring around the car. Ray and I were verbally sparring but both of us were giving as good as we got.”
The actor could never have anticipated what was coming next.
"We ended up in the bride’s family home because Ray happened to live near them. He kept thinking his crowd were going to arrive up but there were no mobile phones back then to know for sure. We spent the time there drinking tea and eating sandwiches. My brother gave him a lift home at 11pm. As soon as Ray was gone my aunts were giving me a hard time, saying that they felt there was something between us. I just told them that he wasn’t my type.”
Berna’s tune drastically changed when he rang her workplace - the costing office of a paint company - some days later.
“The receptionist told me there was a 'fella' on the phone for me. She was dying to know who it was. I was surprised to hear Ray’s voice but he asked me to the pictures and I said yes. If someone asked you on a date back then there was no hiding it and it wasn’t long before the news found its way all around the office."
The date went extremely well to the delight of both parties.
“I laughed the entire evening. He told me this one story that had me in stitches about how he got chased by a bull while on a day out fishing with friends.”
After months of dating Berna realised she had found the one.
“After six months of going out he told me that he loved me. I told him I loved him too. We were married four years on from the day we met.”
News of their engagement filled both families with overwhelming joy.
“My dad was mad about Ray because he was the accountant in Cash’s and the accounting firm Ray was with did the audit there. Ray’s mum had passed away when he was 21. They would have both adored our children.
Berna praised her husband for his support over the years.
"In my 40s he supported me in setting up a drama school.
"He also supported me in writing a book to keep in the family about our little boy Ian who passed at 17 months old.”
She recounted how she and Ray overcame adversity together with the help of their four other children Paul, Linda, Alan and David.
“Ian was severely disabled but his vulnerability just made me love him even more. Paul and Linda were nearly seven and five when he died and it had a major effect on them to lose their younger sibling. Ian was mentioned at each one of our children’s weddings and remains very much a part of the family. They even placed the flowers on Ian’s grave to make sure he was part of their big day.”
Berna shared some of her secrets to a happy marriage
"We talk about everything and I think that’s what makes our relationship so strong.”
Ray returned the compliment as he spoke to The Echo about his indelible love for Berna.
“When I saw Berna sipping sherry at the wedding I thought she looked very sophisticated,” he said. “I fancied her big time and still do today.
"She thinks of everyone and the different ways we might be able to help them. She started acting later in life and is absolutely brilliant at it.
"Myself and our son Paul both talk about how we fully believe she will have a script in her hand in ten years' time and will still be well able for it.”