Express & Star

'Saudi Bill' celebrating 90th birthday with his beloved Scarlett

After being made redundant from a Black Country steelworks, Bill Wood decided to try his luck abroad, working in the oil-rich state of Saudi Arabia.

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Bill and Sheila on their wedding day

The money was excellent, and he loved the lifestyle. The only problem was, he missed his wife Sheila, who stayed back at the family home near Dudley to bring up their two young sons.

So to keep the romance alive, he put a Valentine's Day message in the Express & Star, sending love to "Scarlett", from "Saudi Bill". That was in 1983, and it is a tradition he has kept up every year since, despite returning to live back with Sheila in 1988.

Now, at a party to celebrate his 90th birthday this week, Bill plans to share his love story with 90 guests.

Bill and Sheila Wood

Bill, who has been married to Sheila for 64 years, will celebrate his landmark birthday at Shipway at The Lodge, in Dudley, on Friday night.

To add to the occasion, his granddaughter will make a cake in the shape of a camel.

Bill's 2018 message to Sheila, to mark their 60th wedding anniversary

Bill met Sheila at the Saltwells Inn in Quarry Bank almost 70 years ago, said it was a case of love at first sight – although it was one-sided to begin with.

The 20-year-old had just come out of the army at the end of his National Service in Egypt, when he saw 18-year-old Sheila in the bar.

He said: “The first time I saw her I thought that lass is the girl I’m going to introduce to my mum, because I’ll never introduce a girl to my mum unless I’m going to marry her."

The couple married at St Augustine's Church in Holly Hall, Dudley, followed by a reception at the Station Hotel.

During Bill's time in the desert, Sheila did manage to visit her husband in Saudi Arabia a couple of times.

They have two sons, Stuart, 57 and Darren, 54, as well as grandchildren William and Issy.