Who are Peter and Betty Billingham?
Peter and Betty are celebrating their Golden Wedding this year, 2006. They met in Saltash, England as Peter was about to embark on a round-the-world trip as a result of a challenge issued by the Duke of Edinburgh, for young lads to work their way around the world on £5. It had been his ambition from the age of 14 but first he had to finish his schooling, get his university degree and do his two-years National Service in the RAF. Finally the stage was set for him to leave - and then we met. Everyone thought that would be the end of his journey - but no.
Betty was born in Khartoum, The Sudan, while her father was on colonial service there so had already travelled a lot during the family's annual long-leaves. She persuaded Peter to go on his adventure before they married and settled down - so he hopped onto his motorbike and off he went, first landing a job as washer up on a cargo boat going to Newfoundland. You will soon be able to follow his adventures on another page on this site.
Some 16 months later we find them squatting around a large map of the world, sticking pins into the various countries in which they would like to live. Peter's job-hunting landed an interesting job as field geologist on the island of Trinidad, West Indies. They were to travel as supernumeraries on an oil tanker so had only one month in which to get married, have a short honeymoon, pack their possessions and meet the ship.
The Oil tanker was empty and the seas rough and Betty spent the 3 weeks of her journey being violently seasick - not an auspicious beginning to married life. To try and divert her mind, Peter read her Science Fiction stories about deformed children being wrenched from their parents and made to live "on the fringes". This did little to cheer up the young bride! The captain didn't help by sending 4 special "seasick pills" which they later discovered to be cascara! (a strong laxative) But they made it, in spite of the ship breaking 5 ribs fighting her way through a storm.
They soon settled into their company house, bought themselves a bright red Austin Healey Sports car and became interested in the many butterflies fluttereing around their garden and the jungle, which came almost to the back door. You can see more about how that interest developed on another page.
After eight happy years during which they were blessed with two lovely children, they returned to England where Peter decided to change professions. Most jobs in Geology at that time besides being in isolated places unsuitable for wives and children were paying a pittance. Long spells of seperation were not acceptable so Peter started from scratch in Journalism. It meant a three-quarter cut in salary while working for the Western Morning News, Plymouth - a morning newspaper which meant leaving for work at 4pm and not coming home till 2 in the morning. This is where Betty turned back to her photography and, once the children were tucked up in bed, she would disappear into her darkroom. With temperatures in Trinidad at 90 deg. F and humidity of 90 per cent, darkroom work there had involved lots of ice to bring the chemicals down to 72 degrees. In England it was easier and it wasn't long before Betty was supporting Peter's free-lance articles with her pictures. By visiting the Gallery you can see some of her current offerings.
Grey skies and weeks of rain drove them to seek sunnier lands and in 1976 they left for South Africa where Peter had landed a job as sub-editor for the Star newspaper in Johannesburg. Betty had always been interested in Thematic stamp collecting, so when a chance meeting at an exhibition introduced her to Tin Can Mail, she became fascinated with the strange way mail was delivered to the island of Niuafo'ou, Tonga. But you can follow that story on another page.