TWO Lanarkshire couples who found love in later life have told how their shared interests helped their relationships blossom into marriage.

Nelson and Barbara Waters and Emma and Peter Dawson are all members of u3a (formerly known as the University of the Third Age) which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022.

In Scotland, around 10,000 members enjoy leisure activities and study groups run by volunteers for u3a which costs an average of £25 a year to join.

Nelson (82) joined after he retired, signing up to Lanark and District u3a.

A widower at the time, he met Barbara (76) from Worcester, on a Danube river cruise in 2016 and found out that not only did they share a love of Scrabble but both were members of u3a.

After the cruise, the couple continued to keep in touch by playing Scrabble online, with their membership of u3a a frequent topic of their conversations.

Nelson, from Carluke, had initially joined to keep himself busy. Always a keen gardener, he first created a local gardening group and then led a Scrabble group. He was quickly invited onto the committee and later became its chair.

Barbara was already a Pershore u3a member who enjoyed the walking group. The cruise was her first holiday abroad following widowhood.

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As the pair’s relationship deepened they travelled frequently to see each other but the journey of 300 miles began to pall and they decided to marry, tying the knot in May 2019 in a traditional ceremony, with music such as Highland Cathedral and The Blue Danube.

As the ceremony took place in England, the couple then held a second wedding reception to celebrate their marriage with Lanark and District u3a colleagues, along with Barbara’s Inner Wheel friends, and their neighbours.

Barbara had added reading, poetry, gardening and circle dancing to her activities after transferring her membership to Lanark and District group, also going to the monthly lunch with Lanark & District u3a members.

Among the u3a guests at the Waters wedding reception were Emma (69) and Peter (74), who were married in 2017.

Emma had been a long-time member of u3a and after meeting Peter, encouraged him to join too.

Initially reluctant, he found he “thoroughly enjoyed it”.

“The u3a was an enormous stepping stone for me – now I have met many friends with similar interests and, as they say, couples that play together, stay together,” said Peter.

The couple are members of the photography, badminton and ukulele groups, with the latter started by Emma after they heard the instrument being played while on a trip to Huntingdon Beach, California, to visit her daughter.

“We were walking along a promenade and there was this ukulele convention, sitting there on the beach playing,” said Emma. “Peter knew I’d love to learn and said to me, ‘why don’t you start a u3a ukulele group?’”

On their return to Lanark, Emma set up a meeting in a local pub and after five people turned up, she found a ukulele tutor, continuing sessions throughout the pandemic using an online forum. There are now 22 members of the group which has played gigs at Lanark Memorial Hall, the Lanark and District u3a AGM and Paisley and District u3a.

The couple say they now have a wider circle of friends due to their membership of u3a and continue to invite others to join.

“I encouraged some of our friends and ex-colleagues to join the u3a and they are happy they did so,” said Peter.

There are now 54 community u3as across Scotland and steering groups are under way for new u3as in Bute and Glasgow southside.

A self-help learning and social hub with no exams, anyone can join as long as they are no longer in full-time work. Each u3a is a co-operative run by the members for the members and there are online as well as in-person options.

Anyone interested can try out a few activities before joining.

Find your nearest u3a at: