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It's all tickety-boo for the Wooster couple
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The Times 27 October 2001

It's all tickety-boo for the Wooster couple

Emma Hartley

It is a romantic tale of which even a confirmed bachelor such as Bertie Wooster would approve. The respective chairmen of the British and American P.G. Wodehouse societies have fallen wonderfully in love and married.

Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Murphy, 68, was married to Elin Woodger, 47, this month after proposing to her in Wodehouse's adopted home town in New York State, Remsenburg.

They were married in Long Island on October 6, but kept their church ceremony quiet until the first evening of the biannual Wodehouse conference, which took place a week later in Philadelphia.

Colonel Murphy, a retired former British representative to Nato, said: "On the first evening of the convention I called for silence and asked the committee and UK secretary to come and support me on my right and the committee and US secretary to come up on my left.

"I talked about the liaison and co-operation between these two great Wodehouse societies and added that the American president, Miss Elin Woodger, agreed this was a very worthy ambition.

"In fact, so important did she consider it that last Saturday she made the final sacrifice in this great cause.

"There was a puzzled silence.

"I said, 'I'm delighted to inform you that last Saturday the president of the American Wodehouse Society ( I paused) married (I paused again) the chairman of the P.G. Wodehouse UK.'

"There was a stunned silence, so I went on, 'Elin and I are wife and husband'. Then there was a roar of applause and about 150 miscellaneous Wodehouse enthusiasts rose to their feet. The roof came in."

Like Wodehouse's observation in The Girl in Blue that love often requires "long months before it comes to the boil", the pair were longtime friends before romance blossomed.

Colonel Murphy's first wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Helen, were firm friends with Miss Woodger after they had all met in 1995 on one of his patented walks around London, called Bertie Wooster's Mayfair.

Charlotte died in early 1999. Several months later Miss Woodger visited Britain for a Wodehouse conference where the pair met again and, after more time, began to go out together.

"I think of Norman as being rather like Galahad Threepwood, the Earl of Emsworth's younger brother," said Mrs Woodger-Murphy shortly before today's blessing at St Michael's Church in Wood Green, North London.

"He is a man with a lot of stories. It doesn't matter what you're talking about, he's always got a something for the occasion.

"I remember the first day I met him he asked me where I was from and I told him Everett, Massachusetts.

"He said, 'Everett, Everett, Everett. Did you know your town was named after...' and told me the story of my home town. So I realised right from the beginning I had met someone very special."

For her part, Mrs Woodger-Murphy has long been known by her Wodehouse Society nom de plume of Aunt Dahlia, after Bertie Wooster's impressive aunt who, like Elin, was a writer and editor.

Richard Briers, who is president of the British P.G. Wodehouse Society as well as the best known voice of Bertie Wooster on the radio, reacted with delight when he heard the news.

"That's absolutely tickety-boo. What can I say about Norman? He's a brilliant man and obviously Elin, as a Wodehousian, is brilliant too, so we should be OK. Not half.

"I wish them a joyous union - hands across the sea in no uncertain terms."

He added: "As Bertie would say under the circumstances, shortly before heading to the Drones Club to celebrate, 'Top hole, Norman!' Absolutely wonderful.

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