Couple kept apart by strict father marry 40 years later

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Media caption“Sometimes it’s worth waiting 40 years,” said Bill

A couple kept apart by the woman’s strict father have married almost 40 years later – after the man proposed on BBC Radio 4.

Bill Brookman originally asked Madeleine Coburn to go to the pub with him in 1978, when he was 23 and she was 16, but she was forbidden from going.

Their paths crossed again in 2008 and Bill later asked Madeleine out again.

They were telling their story to The Listening Project when Bill popped the question.

“The hand of fate is very strange but what I must say is sometimes it’s worth waiting 40 years,” Bill said.

Image copyright Kev Ryan
Image caption Madeleine said she and Bill were “very lucky” to have found each other again

Madeleine remembers seeing Bill around Loughborough in Leicestershire, where they still live, when she was a child.

He went to school with her brother when, according to Madeleine, she was “the little sister of no importance whatsoever”.

However, they got to know each other better in 1978 when Bill directed a play that 16-year-old Madeleine was taking part in.

He asked her on a date and she said yes, but her strict father thought Bill was “too arty” and would not let her see him.

“I was disappointed, but that’s just the way life is,” said Bill, who had no idea why she had cancelled the date.

Image copyright Madeleine Brookman/Bill Brookman
Image caption Madeleine was 16 when a 23-year-old Bill originally asked her out

Madeleine – a specialist in the heritage and arts sector – never married, but performer Bill had two sons with a previous wife.

They met again in 2008 when they collaborated on a school project in Leicester. Four years later he plucked up the courage to ask Madeleine out again.

After they became a couple, Bill took her to the pub he had originally intended to go on their date decades before.

“That was very sweet,” said Madeleine.

Image caption Bill proposed to Madeleine when they were recording a conversation for The Listening Project

Bill proposed while their conversation was being recorded by BBC Radio 4, but Madeleine did not give an answer at the time.

However, the radio producer asked them to pose for a photo afterwards, which was when the bride-to-be said yes.

“The fact we didn’t go out together when we were younger meant that we’ve both lived very rich lives,” said Madeleine.

“Then we found each other again, and it was a special thing that happened to us, so I think we’re very lucky.”

Producer Namrata Varia said: “It was a privilege to record The Listening Project’s first ever marriage proposal.

“It took me by complete surprise. To be honest I’m not sure who was more surprised by it – me, Madeleine or Bill.”

Image copyright Kev Ryan
Image caption The pair married in August

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