After 60 years it's still a model marriage

HERS was a face in a million - and it was her stunning looks which drew his attention across a crowded dance floor.

Doreen Kerfoot had achieved national fame as a teenager after being plucked from relative obscurity to star in a film and become a model.

But while she naturally enjoyed the attention her new-found status gave her, there were times when she craved some normality.

And so it was one night when she decided to go to a dance at the works canteen at Birkby's in Liversedge.

Coming from Staincliffe, she was well-known in both Dewsbury and Batley, but decided to go the dance in Liversedge because no-one might know her there.

It was the first time she had ever been, but the night would change her life because it was there she met Harold Fletcher, who was to become her husband.

And this week the couple celebrate 60 years of marriage.

Doreen was propelled to stardom when she became the Yorkshire Wool Queen. She was working as a weaver at Joseph Newsome's in Batley Carr when she entered a competition run by The Wool and Allied Employers Council.

They were looking for a pretty young female mill worker to encourage more women to get involved in the industry.

After submitting a photograph she was invited to the contest at Lewis's department store in Leeds and got through to the finals.

The judges, movie director Arthur Crabtree from J Arthur Rank Studios, Alan Weir of the Yorkshire Evening News, and Frank Hill of the Wool and Allied Textile Employers' Council thought Doreen fitted the bill perfectly and she was crowned Yorkshire Wool Queen.

"The prize was a sum of money but also being the main star in a story of wool which was an extravagant, lovely hour-long film to recruit new workers into the wool industry," said Doreen.

"My picture appeared on the cover page of the then world-wide colour magazine, The Illustrated, and according to members of the Forces who were home on leave, I had become a pin-up girl for them!"

The film - The Three Piece Suit - was shot at the United Motion Film Pictures studios in London and also at Newsome's mill.

It premiered in Bradford and was hailed a rousing success.

"Afterwards an elaborate exhibition of the film and beautiful post-war fashions was displayed by six mannequins and myself which thrilled crowds of ladies who had been on clothes coupons for years," said Doreen.

"I was, by this time, a trained mannequin and being the star of the show I was inundated with fans on leaving the shows."

Attending the Birkby's dance was a distraction from all the attention - although she naturally welcomed the attention she received from Harold.

"It was love at first sight," he admitted.

The couple began courting and eventually decided to marry.

Because of their different religions Harold and Doreen actually married twice - at Christ Church in Battyeford and St Joseph's Catholic Church in Batley Carr.

Harold was originally from Battyeford and attended Batley Art School for four years winning various art awards.

He had the privilege of painting the Batley Coat of Arms for attachment to the Spitfire which was provided through donations from the Batley public.

He was also a keen sportsman, broke various athletic school records, represented Dewsbury and Batley schoolboys at football and played for local leading football teams.

After school he volunteered for the Royal Navy and served during World War II for four years on Atlantic convoys, the Far East and South Africa.

On demob he studied at Dewsbury Tech for three years on a textile course for Associateship of the Textile Industry and subsequently worked at Wormalds and Walker for over 30 years as a wool buyer.

He stayed there until retirement and had the distinction of being a principal examiner in textiles for the City and Guilds of London Institute.

Doreen was also a talented singer and shortly after marrying, she entered a Harrogate competition with thousands of girls. She came second in the finals and sang the Cinderella song in front of the 5,000 people who had attended in the Valley Gardens.

That appearance led to her being invited to play the principle part in Reg Bottoms' professional pantomime at Dewsbury Empire for a few months.

She also did photographic modelling and work for Paton and Baldwin's, Wakefield, modelling their jumpers, and continued singing for nursing homes entertaining older and infirm people.

At the age of 38 she had cancer and her treatment involved seven operations.

"I was advised by my specialist to do something to take my mind off the problem so I went into business making holiday flats at Whitby and Scarborough and made special invalid facilities for infirm people with wheelchairs etc," she said.

In 1988 she was nominated for a Yorkshire Post Woman of Achievement award by the Countess of Ronaldshay in aid of the Wheatfield Sue Ryder home for cancer patients and received the accolade at a ceremony at the Queen's Hotel in Leeds.

Throughout their busy lives, Harold and Doreen have been a constant support to each other.

"It wasn't all hard work," said Harold.

"We're very fortunate to be together for so long and to enjoy hobbies of dining out, ballroom dancing and experiencing lots of lovely holidays abroad and all over Britain.

"We've enjoyed a long life of happiness with very much help, love and consideration from our sons and great affection from the whole family who we are very close to."

The couple have two sons - Paul, who is married to Vivien, and Vincent, whose partner is Judith; grandchildren Joseph, John, Alexandra, Samantha and Joshua and step-grandchildren Matthew and Jane.

Having lived in Briestfield, Dewsbury, for 23 years, the couple now live in Hightown - a mere stone's throw from where they first met.

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