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Last weekend I had the inestimable pleasure of meeting Anthony and Nikki Cooper when they stayed in our B&B for a few nights. Anthony is the son of Betty Youlden, the gal after whom our wonderful village is named. Since I have lived in Betty’s Bay I have become by default the mental repository of all sorts of historical facts by reading and researching plus chatting to folks with whom I come into contact.

It never ceases to amaze me of the little details that people have filed away that are of no consequence to them but are fascinating to the likes of me, who enjoys putting together the puzzles of the past.

Anthony Cooper, son of Betty Youlden, 2018 visiting Betty's Bay
Anthony and Nikki Cooper

Whilst he was here Anthony regaled me with many a story and I thought you would like to know how Betty met her husband…. It was 1936 and the 18 year old Dorothy Betty Youlden, known as Betty, was travelling with her parents Dorothy and Arthur from New York to Southampton in England. Also on board was Norman Cooper aged 36, a British importer/exporter who lived, at the time, in Liverpool. One glance at Betty across the ships deck and Norman was smitten.

He knew that he only had the length of the voyage, roughly five days, to get to know her better and so made it his purpose to dance with her as much as decently possible each night. On arrival in the UK the Youldens had a two week stay in London before continuing their journey home to South Africa and so Norman delayed his return to Liverpool and called on Betty and her parents during the two weeks before she sailed south. Just before the two weeks were up, Norman made an appointment to see Arthur and asked for Betty’s hand in marriage: “Thank goodness” said Arthur, “I thought you were after my wife!”

They were married in South Africa and in order not to waste precious time on a long sea voyage, Norman decided to fly down, but as there were sanctions in place against Italy following the Abyssinian invasion, part of his journey had to take place by land to avoid flying over Italy. According to Imperial Airways the route should have been: London, Marseille, Rome, Brindisi, Athens, Alexandria, Khartoum, Port Bell, Kisumu and onwards by land-based craft to Nairobi, Mbeya and eventually Cape Town. Only flying during daylight hours it took 10 days.

Once married, Betty and Norman travelled back to the UK where they made their home. Betty did return to South Africa several times in her life to the Youldens houses in Cape Town and Johannesburg but, according to Anthony, never returned to Betty’s Bay.