...to have and to hold...opening next week

The Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead will be celebrating romance this autumn when it hosts a display of wedding dresses from October 15th until December 20th 2015. The dresses displayed belong to members of Heswall U3A, who have also contributed family photographs, invitations and treasured tokens of their very special days ranging from the 1920s to the present day.

The University of the Third Age is a national organisation for men and women who are retired or semi-retired and wish to continue learning and sharing knowledge. U3A branches are operationally independent and run by the voluntary efforts of their members. The exhibition has been organised by Heswall U3A and will be featured in the Williamson's local history gallery.

One of the dresses featured in the exhibition will be on loan from the gallery's staff. Lyndsay and Neil Mitchelson married on the 17th February 1996 at St Marys Church, Eastham, Wirral. After many attempts by a mutual friend to get them together they met when this family friend arranged a blind date for them at Turleys in Birkenhead.

The couple went out on one date but never saw each other for nine months, during this time Lyndsay was diagnosed with cancer, Neil heard about this and came to ask her out on another date and they have not been apart since. 

Lyndsay tells us “He asked me to marry him knowing how ill I was, we went away for a few weeks and on our return the doctor was to tell me if treatment was working or not, Neil said we would marry in two weeks if the news was bad or eighteen months if the news was good. We married eighteen months later after being given the all clear.” 

This was the culmination of two years of treatment. To make the day even more special they were married on Lyndsay’s mum’s birthday. With it being so close to Valentine’s Day flowers were extremely expensive and hard to get. So ever resourceful Lyndsay went to a local wholesalers (ok, Inspirations) and bought a pre-made artificial arrangement for a fraction of the cost.

“The family joke is that I told my mother in law that I was getting married in black, whilst standing at the church door she turned to look at me and as it was dark in the doorway the green top to my dress looked black and she told my father in law that ‘the little madam has dressed in black’, but she loved my dress and as I walked passed her I got the thumbs up.”

Having been told Lyndsay would not have children due to her cancer treatment, the couple were surprised to find she was pregnant and gave birth to their son Nickolas 9 months after being married. Lyndsay’s grandmother told them that years ago it was tradition to make the christening gown out of your wedding dress to save on fabric, the bottom half of the dress provided enough raw silk to make the gown but the top was kept as a special memento.

“My poor mum was distraught as she had bought my dress but when she saw Nickolas in the christening gown she was happy that we had an heirloom to pass down through the generations. Neil and I have been happily married for twenty years in February and I was lucky enough to have married my very best friend and soul mate. He has been my inspiration throughout our marriage and I could not imagine my life without him.”

Alison Bailey Smith of the Friends of the Williamson said of the exhibition: “ It is a wonderful way to connect with a pivotal moment in the lives of the contributors and I am sure will touch the hearts of many who will view the exhibition. I am sure the display will bring back many memories for our visitors, we hope to hear of many stories of special dresses, something old and something new during the exhibition and to capture stories of local weddings”.

Members of the public can keep up to date with all the activities at the Williamson Art Gallery and Birkenhead Priory following The Friends of the Williamson’s facebook page, twitter and on their blog or visiting www.williamsonartgallery.org website.