MEMORY LANE: Sylvia and Ray Johnson will return to Angurugu in the Northern Territory for the first time in 55 years.
MEMORY LANE: Sylvia and Ray Johnson will return to Angurugu in the Northern Territory for the first time in 55 years. Julia Baker

Island beckons Sylvia and Ray

SYLVIA and Ray Johnson didn't know whether to laugh or cry when their children surprised them with mock plane tickets to travel to remote Aboriginal community Angurugu on Groote Eylandt, where their love story began more than 50 years ago.

Mrs Johnson said she was amazed by her children's plan to take their parents back to the Northern Territory island where the couple were married in 1962 after meeting while working as Anglican missionaries.

The Chinchilla couple are set to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary on June 13.

They will mark the occasion by taking a 10-day trip with their three grown children.

"There was two Anglican missions and it was during the assimilation time, when the government wanted to teach Aboriginal communities to be self- sufficient. It was absolutely beautiful, it was a hive of activity,” Mrs Johnson said.

"The two nursing sisters made the cake and everybody brought all their best crockery, we had the reception on the mission house veranda, the superintendent who was an Anglican minister married us. My mother sent out the material for the dress from England and the bridesmaid dress and my veil was the mosquito net and it was all gathered up with flowers and it look like the real thing.”

The newlyweds honeymooned in the Bougainvillea Suite at the Umbakumba Airbase and two of the couple's three children were born on the island.

The couple courted for about a year before they were married and said they didn't know each other very well when they became husband and wife.

"We couldn't hold hands on the mission. We could only see one another for an hour and half two times a week sitting outside on the mission house veranda,” Mr Johnson said.

"After a few months we grew fond enough of one another but we never really got to know one another. And then we got married and discovered the other one had faults!”

Mrs Johnson was working in Adelaide and was about to return to her native England when she said God called upon her to travel to the Northern Territory to serve the local Aboriginal community as a teacher.

Mrs Johnson said the secret to being married for 55 years is to keep learning about each other every single day.

"You learn every day, we were entirely opposites, but we married and we promised that we would be together. With God's help we have managed to stay together,” she said.

She said the 'bush telegraph' had been running hot on Groote Eylandt since their children began planning the trip.

"Everyone knows we are coming. We are going to get one of the locals to take us around in a troop carrier.”

"We'll take plenty of tissues.”


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