After meeting by chance at a horse race in New Zealand half a century ago Shepparton locals Ray and Carmel Ducat celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary yesterday.
With the fate of Mr Ducat’s fathers racing horse Goulburn View not in the couples favour in 1968, a sea of white and red brought the travelling family’s together through mutual friends.
‘‘Ray’s father was a harness racing driver and trainer and he had a mare called Goulburn View who was in the Inter Dominion Championships but she had a brake down which interfered with her preparation, so he canceled her start in New Zealand and Ray thought ‘Oh well I’ll go anyway’, Mrs Ducat said.
Racing a horse herself at the time, Mrs Ducat was preparing to celebrate her 21st birthday in New Zealand with friends and family.
‘‘Ray was only over there for a week but he knew of some Shepparton boys in this hotel which I happened to be staying in with with my girlfriend, father and uncle,’’ she said.
Mrs Ducat said it was like two strangers across a crowded room, as the future couple locked eyes on one another.
‘‘I was wearing all white with my girlfriends red velvet vest on and the family joke is what would have happened if my girlfriend had of been wearing her own vest - Ray says it wouldn’t have made any difference,’’ she said.
Running into each other the next morning at Duty Free Mr Ducat asked his future Mrs Ducat to accompany him on a ride on the Aquaplane.
‘‘Of course he had to pay for my girl friend and myself - every where he took us it was three tickets he paid for,’’ Mrs Ducat said.
‘‘It was the most expensive trip I’ve been on,’’ Mr Ducat said.
The Thursday night came and Mrs Ducat’s Father and Uncle had left money to help celebrate her 21st birthday.
She said after paying for the bar and food there was only enough money left for a ‘‘little sponge birthday cake’’.
‘‘In comes totally uninvited - his ticket of admission was the biggest 21st cake you’ve ever seen - fruit cake in the shape of a horse shoe,’’ Mrs Ducat said.
Continuing their connection after returning from New Zealand Mr Ducat wrote to his future wife, asking her out for the Saturday night.
‘‘The letter said I’ll ring your brothers who lived 3ks away on Thursday or Friday night - I got the letter on the Thursday so I ran,’’ Mrs Ducat said.
‘‘But he was prepared to sit and hang around in the Ducat’s Dairy office and sat tight and wait for a return call - he wouldn’t ring from the home phone, Mum and Dad might hear.’’
The couple were married a year later at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mentone on March 8 1969 on Ray’s 26th birthday.
As Mr Ducat was a none Catholic he attended eight religous lessons prior to marrying Mrs Ducat.
‘‘We couldn’t find a priest any where who would work on a Saturday so we ended up in Melbourne central at St Francis’ Church in Elizabeth St right opposite Myer,’’ Mrs Ducat said.
She said with the transition from bottled milk into carton milk at the time Mr Ducat would take a load of milk down to a dairy in Hawthorn then drive the milk tanker to the church for his lesson.
‘‘At our wedding the priest said it was the funniest thing he had ever seen - heres a milk tanker taking up four carparks in Elizabeth St,’’ Mrs Ducat said.
The happily married couple went on to have five children together - Michelle, Jacinta, Kylie, Rachel and Adrian (A.J).
Mrs Ducat said there is no road map to a successful marriage but the having chemistry is important.
‘‘If you get the chemistry right in the first place it never dies - with us the chemistry was just right,’’ she said.