Still strong, the marriage which would 'never work'
HER aunt told her it wouldn't last six months, but 50 years after they wed, Maureen and Jo Xavier are still happily married.
The couple will celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on March 1, having defied the doubters among Maureen's family.
The couple met at a party in Belfast in 1962 and tied the knot in London a few months later.
Jo was born in Sri Lanka, and has a Portuguese surname, while Maureen was from a poor family in Belfast, but it was their different religious backgrounds which caused most hostility at the time.
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"Jo is Catholic and I am Protestant, so people were dead against us getting married," Maureen explained.
There was also a 10-year age gap between the pair, and Maureen's Auntie told the 17-year-old that the marriage would not last, but the headstrong young lovebirds went ahead in spite of this.
In the early 1970s they moved to Chulmleigh, where they ran a grocers shop for several years, before they moved away from the area again.
They came back to Devon when Jo got a job as a chauffeur for the top brass at the Heathcoat factory. Maureen became a warden at Greenway Gardens, where she stayed for 13 years, enjoying the job very much. In that time, she got to know the residents and their families very well and when the couple walked into town Joe would often ask of her "is there anyone you don't know in Tiverton?".
Joe liked his job too, even the early starts, which often meant setting off from Tiverton at 2am to pick up people arriving on 6am flights. Maureen said: "He met people from all over the world, from America, Italy and some ladies from Russia."
Maureen said when the couple first met at a friends party in Belfast, they "just clicked" and in really was a case of "love at first sight".
"We are great pals and we are lucky to have a lovely family, with our daughters and four big strapping grandsons," she said.
"We have our ups and downs like anybody, but people think we must be joined at the hip because we have always done things together."
Maureen said London had initially seemed "very frightening" for a girl from Belfast who had never left Ireland before, but she said the Cockneys she met had always been very welcoming.
During the couple's second spell in the capital they ran a grocery and convenience store in Walthamstow, where one of their most regular customers was a member of an up-and-coming pop group.
Maureen said: "East 17 used to come in the shop and one of the members Terry lived just around the corner and was also coming in the shop to buy 10 Benson and Hedges. I didn't have a clue who he was, until somebody told me one day that he was in a famous band, but he was a very nice young man."
The couple's family are planning a party to mark the anniversary. They have two daughters Joan and Lorna, their youngest child Geoffrey died 13 years ago.