Penpals’ red letter day ... 70 years on

An unbreakable bond: from left, Avrils granddaughter Jodie Blyth; Avril, Sara and Jessica.
An unbreakable bond: from left, Avrils granddaughter Jodie Blyth; Avril, Sara and Jessica.

When Avril Corbett and Sara Matzkin were matched as penpals in 1947, neither could have imagined what the future would hold for them.

For more than 70 years later, the pair are not only still in touch, but have just enjoyed a weekend together during which they couldn’t stop blethering.

Avril (78) was just eight years old and Sara six when Avril’s teacher at Ladybank Primary, Rita Berwick, visited a school in Bridgeport in the American state of Connecticut.

Keen to establish links between Bridgeport and Ladybank, Miss Berwick gave each of the pupils the name of a member of her class back home and suggested they write to them.

Sara was given Avril’s name and the girls began writing to each other, discovering more and more things in common with each letter.

Their friendship continued to blossom over the years and in the early 1960s they met for the first time when Sara and a friend visited Scotland.

Since then, they have met on a handful of occasions, and Avril and her late husband Eddie were even invited to Sara’s daughter Jessica’s Jewish wedding in New England.

In between, they’ve kept writing and phone each other regularly.

“I always had a premonition when one of Sara’s letters was about to arrive,” said Avril.

“We have always had a very close bond. We are very similar in outlook – quite direct and down to earth –and that’s why we get on so well.”

It had been a number of years since the penpals had seen each other in the flesh so last Friday was an exciting day for them both.

Sara had flown from her home in Boston with Jessica and much of the weekend was spent catching up.

“We just blethered almost all weekend,” said Avril.

“It was quite emotional looking through all our old photographs and letters and Sara took loads of them home with her.

“I’ll get them back one day though as we’re sure to see each other again.”

Sara is now a grandmother of nine, with each of her three daughters also having three children.

Avril, meanwhile, experienced tragedy when she lost her eldest daughter to cancer, but she’s close to her daughter Pauline and her two children. Avril’s husband Eddie sadly passed away in June.

Throughout their lives the women’s relationship has never wavered, with Sara’s letters bringing comfort when things got tough.

“I’m sure we must be the only penpals who kept in touch,” said Avril.

“We tend to phone more than write these days but we don’t email each other as I had a bad experience with a scammer that put me off computers for life!”