“I NEVER thought I would see it in my lifetime.”

Those were the words of 81-year-old James Daniels after the same sex marriage bill came a step closer to becoming law last week.

The pensioner from Howley was jailed for nine months aged 18 for being gay after police caught him with another man.

But 60 years on the retired admin worker at Warrington Hospital can wear his gay badge with pride and says it is a ‘wonderful freedom’ people have now.

He added: “You were jailed in those days if you gave any indication that you were gay.

“We were abused by the police and treated like dirt.

“The police saw me with someone and grabbed me by the neck onto the floor and I was carted down to the police station.

“I found out after I had been in prison the man I was with had thrown himself in the Mersey before he went to court.

“In your circles you knew who was who but you didn’t dare keep an address book because the police trawled through it and interviewed all your friends.

“People were dragged in who had nothing to do with it.”

The loyal hospital employee, who retired aged 65 but then worked seven years full-time without pay because he loved his job, said it was a ‘tremendous shock’ to his family but they supported him.

Whereas some of his gay friends were ‘shown the door’ by their families.

Mr Daniels, who had a partner, Bill, for more than 40 years and lived together in secret before he died 10 years ago of cancer, adds he knew from the age of 11 he was gay.

He said: “I just knew and there was an advert for Mr Atlas and I used to love looking at the drawing.

“I never orientated to anything feminine.

“Bill and I were extremely happy and never had an argument and I’m sure lots of married couples would have liked to be in the same situation.”

The same sex marriage bill still faces a number of obstacles before it can become law but Mr Daniels said he is absolutely delighted things are changing.