Weekly Local Biography

  Tom and Dot Delaney

There are not too many of us who will make it through to a golden wedding anniversary. 50 years married to the same person sounds daunting, but not for Tom and Dot Delaney. “I couldn’t imagine life without Dot,” said Tom. “We’re like joined at the hip,” said Dot. In fact, it is very rare to see one without the other; they are for everyone in Chiang Mai the inseparable couple, Tom and Dot or even Dot and Tom. They are also Mum and Dad for their five children and Grandma and Granddad for their eight grandchildren.

However, Tom and Dot go back a lot further than 50 years, both of them living in the same town in Yorkshire in the UK, and both went to the same school. They first met there 57 years ago. “We weren’t in the same class,” said Dot, “He’s older than me.” “And I didn’t carry her books either,” said Tom.

Three years later Tom joined the British Army. “He wanted someone to write to him. That’s how it started,” said Dot. Well, it certainly wasn’t finished, because he returned and they got engaged. Immediately afterwards Tom was posted to Malaya (as it was in those days). “That was where I fell in love with the Far East,” said Tom, but fortunately that didn’t make him fall out of love with Dot. He came back and Dot became an Easter bride on April 17, 1954. “I was a little bit nervous,” said Dot, “I think all brides are. It’s dipping into the unknown.” However, the groom claims that he wasn’t nervous at all. “I’d just come back from jungle warfare, I was ready for everything.”

‘Everything’ eventually turned into five children (Tom born in Yorkshire, Gerry in Germany, Kathleen in Ireland, Patricia in Newcastle and Michael in Germany). “We couldn’t afford a TV in those days,” said Dot, quickly followed up by Tom saying, “You could do anything while listening to the radio!” So now you know, kids, you were conceived during the interval in the BBC News.

The next 20 years were spent travelling all over the globe, to wherever the British Army would post Tom (and to places where they could listen to the BBC News service). Much of the time was spent in Germany, which explains why the second and fifth children were born there; however, the last posting was to Hong Kong, where Tom retired in 1974.

They returned to the UK and Dot’s world changed. “The military was such a busy social life. Civvy street was just so boring! That’s why we went into pubs. We’re people people,” said Dot. Of course, when she says they went into pubs, it wasn’t just a stroll through the front door for a pint in the afternoon, it was ‘hands on’. They took on the running of pubs for the next 12 years (and so much for Tom’s retirement). They were so busy, that at one stage they were running a pub each!

In the meantime, the family was growing and one by one flying the coop. In 1984 the two girls decided to go to Hong Kong to live, and the call of the Far East became too strong for Tom and Dot, and they followed, where they settled and ran a gift shop from 1988 till 1997, the time of the hand-over to China. This looked like an auspicious time for them to try retiring (again).

They decided to retire on Cyprus and made plans to go there, but Tom also liked Thailand, so they decided to stay for a couple of years, while on the way. Those “couple of years” has stretched into eight, and I think the rovers have come home to roost.

With today’s electronic communication, Tom and Dot stay in touch with all their children. “Our family is very close,” said Tom. “A family can help keep you together.” So much so, that Tom keeps a file on every member of the family. He is also a bit of a bower-bird, hoarding such things as all his daily diaries which he has kept for the 50 plus years. “He’s even got all the letters I wrote to him,” said Dot.

I had to ask the question that we all want to know - how did they stay together for all that time? “Getting married to become ‘one’ is ridiculous,” said Tom. “Agreed,” said Dot. “I don’t think there’s anyone more different than my Dot,” said Tom chipping in again. They certainly have different tastes, Tom liking documentaries and the news on TV (probably remembering the BBC radio again), while Dot professes to be interested in programmes on China and medical dramas. Tom reads crime fiction and does crosswords, while Dot reads, “Anything I can get my hands on, especially romance.”

But despite the differences, the prime factor that comes through is that they show consideration for each other. “You have to like and respect each other,” said Tom.

It obviously also helps if you have a good sense of humour. “We’ve always been able to have a good laugh. We’ve always had enough people around to have a party,” said Dot, and the party to end all parties is on the 17th of April this year, their Golden Wedding. To be held at the Amari Rincome, the family have flown in from all over the world, plus friends and well-wishers. Dot (the organizer) has planned it all. “Tom helped,” said Dot, “he signed the cards!”

Looking back on it all, Dot said, “Fifty years sounds long - but I don’t know where the time’s gone.” Tom, five kids and eight grandchildren could probably tell you, Dot!

It was a pleasure spending time with these happy people reminiscing on times gone by. Like many of our readers, I am jealous of you at having attained such a wonderful milestone. Congratulations from everyone at the Chiangmai Mail, and I look forward to being at the 75th.