There are few couples who can say the happiest day of their lives was made possible by the Prime Minister’s family.
Now John Butler and his wife Margaret are celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary – looking back on a fascinating sixty years of marriage.
John, 84 and Margaret, 80 were married in All Saints Church in Danehill on January 8, 1955.
“I met her at this dance when she was 17,” said John.
“I thought she was rather nice and I asked if I could see her home. I had a push bike and we finished up at Birch Grove.”
Birch Grove was the family home of former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
“I thought ‘wow, who have I been dancing with?’,” added John.
“It turned out she helped to look after the children – Harold Macmillan’s grandchildren.”
Margaret assisted the nanny, looking after Maurice Macmillan and Katharine Ormsby-Gore’s five children.
“She spent the night on her own at Birch Grove, rather than go to the coronation with the family.
“The Macmillans are very family-orientated, they would always invite you to join in special occasions, like birthdays.
“My wife had no family. They provided for her. The Macmillan family paid for our wedding.”
With Margaret having no family around to pay for the wedding, the Macmillans stepped in to pay for their wedding reception at Danehill village hall.
“We had just started out in life. I was getting paid a pound a week and my wife was getting 30 shillings.”
John said Harold Macmillan even invited the whole estate up when President Kennedy was visiting at the height of the Cold War in 1963. As a tennant farmer at Birchgrove, John’s father was also invited.
“I can remember it very well. I took my four children. We stayed on the edge of the park where there were two helicopters and we saw him come out of the house and shake hands with all the members of the family.
“He had to walk past us and we were clapping and cheering and waving.
“He said ‘nice to meet y’all, thanks all for coming.”
The couple, who have four children, seven grandchildren and four great grand children, both come from farming families.
“I have farmed since 1959, my brother George had Tremains Farm in Horsted Keynes and my son farms at Fletching. Margaret comes from a Scottish farming family.”
John and Margaret now live at Heaven Farm, near Ashdown Forest.
They will be celebrating their anniversary at the Crown Inn in Danehill – where president Kennedy once visited for drinks – with old friends.
Asked what was the key to his happy marriage, John said: “I was so lucky to find her and to find a lady who had to some extent been starved of love while growing up.I am a stupid old romantic.
“My wife not only had four children, she also helped to rear the calves from the farm and take them to market in Haywards Heath.”
He thanked his wife for being the ‘perfect manager’ of children.
“She tells them what is wrong and what is right.”