First Person: Julie Pegram

Julie Pegram with a portrait of herself and husband Tony

I like to think that my relationship with Tony has been like the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – except they only married each other twice and she got a diamond necklace. The family has been through a lot over the past 30 years but somehow we have ended up together. I believe that’s because despite the divorces and tragedy, Tony and I never really let each other go.

I was born in 1955, near the seaside village of Pendine, Carmarthenshire. Dad worked in forestry and mum was a housewife. I went to the local school and we knew everybody in the community. I had a fairly quiet childhood, although I once came third in the Miss Pears children’s beauty competition.

I was a teenage bride before I met Tony. I married my first husband in 1972 and we had two children, Simon and Sharon. After my daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis she spent a lot of time in hospital; I think the fact that I was very young and bringing up two children was partly responsible for that marriage ending after five years. I moved back in with my parents until I got rehoused.

When I met Tony for the first time, he literally bumped in to me. I was in a club with some friends when he stumbled past and apologised for knocking my arm. I thought he was quite pleasant and, a few days later, I asked a mutual friend about him. About a week passed before he telephoned and asked if he could see me. He turned up at the door with a couple of doughnuts! We got on immediately and started going out.

Tony worked as an engineer for the Territorial Army and our first date was a game of pool at the local barracks. He loved my children and a few months later, completely out of the blue, popped the question. I suppose I was a bit wary after the breakdown of my first marriage but we tied the knot at Carmarthen register office in 1982. It was a low-key affair and Tony had to be at work the next day, so there was no proper honeymoon.

We had some great times for five years and then things started to go wrong. A marriage falls apart because of two people but Sharon was my first priority and I was struggling to cope. When Tony left, I honestly thought that was the end and I would never marry again. Our divorce came through in 1987 but by the following year he was back and, after a lot of discussion, we married again in 1988. Both of us had jobs and wanted to build a home together, so I thought we would settle down this time and live happily ever after.

Tony was like a father to Simon and Sharon but things went wrong again in 1991. This time he left the area completely when we divorced, later moving to Kent. I was completely devastated but worse was yet to come when my daughter died in 1992. She was only 18. Sharon was an incredible girl – she lit up a room when she walked in. She knew Tony cared for her a lot but she didn’t want him to see her suffering at the end, which was difficult for Tony to come to terms with.

The next few years were hard and I didn’t see Tony again until 1997, when his mother passed away. I was angry with him at the funeral because I thought we could have had such a good life together and he had thrown it all away. A few days later, though, we went out for a meal and it was clear the spark was still there – so we married for the third time on March 13 1999. The wedding was again in Carmarthen, except this time we went on honeymoon to Lanzarote.

I’m not sure I’m qualified to say what makes a good marriage but we’re still together and there is a lot of love between us. If you have a problem with your partner, you need to sit down and talk it out, rather than make a rash decision. Learning to forgive somebody is very important. I’m certain that for me it’s third time lucky. Tony and I have wasted too much time, so we have plenty of catching up to do.

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