1st February 2018
Walking into Marriage - Godfrey and Cecilia Leone Ganado
Nearly five decades have passed since Godfrey and Cecilia Leone Ganado first started ‘going steady’, and their love and affection for each other remain clear.
If you were a teenager in the early 1960s, Ghar id-Dud in Sliema was the most happening place to be. Nearby attractions included the Alhambra cinema, Bonello’s Kiosk in St Anne’s Square, and Golden Harvest, where one could get a drink or a coffee and a nice double-decker salami bezzun. Like a precursor to Paceville, it was always humming with young people, including Cecilia Gregory, 15, and Godfrey Leone Ganado, 18.
Having grown up in neighbouring areas of Sliema, Cecilia and Godfrey were vaguely aware of each other, and when they ended up in the same group of friends, they started talking and hit it off immediately. “I used to listen for the bell ringing for lessons at the girls’ school down the road, look out of the window a few minutes later and see her running to school – always late,” smiles Godfrey, a retired accountant who was a former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Our dates used to consist of long walks and outings to tea rooms,” Cecilia recalls. Her father, she says, was very strict – “more British than the British” – so Godfrey would wait for her around the corner until she came out of the house. It was after four years of dating that she formally introduced her beau to her parents. The match was immediately approved – their fathers were both Customs officials and the parents had been invited to each other’s weddings; Godfrey’s parents had only missed the Gregory wedding because she was heavily pregnant with him.
There wasn’t a grand declaration when Godfrey asked Cecilia to marry him. “It was more of a gradual proposal – we sort of walked into marriage,” Godfrey says with a smile. “We had to know we had enough money to build a house and raise a family.” The two married after eight years together on 29th April 1971 at St Gregory’s Church in Sliema; she was 23 and he was 26. The bride wore an organza and lace gown sewn by Mrs Josephine Micallef, with fabric from Camilleri’s in Valletta. She was accompanied by one bridesmaid (her cousin) wearing white, a flower girl (Godfrey’s only sister) and two pageboys, who all wore matching velvet ensembles. She received two bridal bouquets from two different florists – she had cancelled with a supplier and it was sent just the same. “Don’t worry,” Godfrey told her, “I’ll walk up with one of them myself.”
The reception at the Phoenicia Hotel was attended by 650 people from both sides of Parliament, including the guest of honour, then-Prime Minister Giorgio Borg Olivier, since Cecilia’s father was the Clerk of the House of Representatives. “One side of the house gifted us a carpet – the other gave us a vacuum cleaner!” Cecilia giggles. She adds, “in our day, the wedding reception was more of a party for parents, relatives and friends, as that was the custom. The bride and groom were given a set number of guests they could invite, and that was it!” It was a rainy day – in fact, the reception had to be moved indoors – but we all know what they say about rain on the day of a wedding. After 46 years, two children, and five grandchildren, it’s hard to dispute.
The couple credits their strong Catholic faith with the success of their marriage, along with shared values and a determination to make their union work. “You have to work at a marriage – when problems come up, you don’t just throw in the towel,” Cecilia says. “I don’t think there’s enough communication between couples these days,” Godfrey adds, “Cecilia and I discuss everything, as we always have done, and even though we don’t always agree, we just agree to disagree… and then eventually agree.”