A pair of childhood neighbours from Scunthorpe who are now in their nineties said it “doesn’t feel like any time has passed” as they reunited after not seeing each other for 40 years – all thanks to a fateful note written during the Second World War that was left inside a charity shop book.
Bernard Duff, 93, and Barbara Donald, 94, lived three houses apart in Hornsby Crescent, meeting when they were just small children and growing up together into their teens, both moving away when they met their significant others and married. The friends bumped into each other every now and then over the years, but had lost touch around 40 years ago.
Several weeks ago, Bernard, who lives on Gunness Lane, bought the book ‘Britain at War’ about the Second World War from a local charity shop. Flicking through the pages the following day, he discovered a note tucked inside the cover, and realised it was written by his childhood neighbour, Barbara.
The note read: “The time at which this is being written is 5:10pm. The war is not troubling us much. We have had very few bombs here. We are having a bit of trouble with rations, but are able to overcome the difficulty pretty well.
“I am sitting by the fire and haven’t been to school, owing for a touch of flu.” It was signed by Barbara Godden (now Donald), aged 14.
Thinking Barbara had passed away and keen to reunite the note with her living family members, Bernard told Scunthorpe Live previously: “I just couldn’t believe it. I was showing it to my carer and I said, ‘She lived three doors away from me’. I’d like to find her, but I have an idea that she might not be with us. I’d like to find her family and give the note to them because it’s a piece of history.”
Amazingly, just one day after the story was published, Barbara’s son contacted Scunthorpe Live to state that his mother, 94, was still very much alive and well and would love to meet Bernard.
Barbara, who lives on Messingham Road, said: “My husband Graham died a few months ago and I’ve been cleaning out a lot of stuff, I took a lot of books to the charity shop, and that was one of them, but I bought it a long time after the war, so I think I found that note and thought that book was a suitable place to keep it.
“I was surprised when I read the story. My first reaction was, ‘Oh, it’s Bernard, I haven’t seen him for ages’. He’s such a nice chap and I used to bump into him sometimes and have a long chat. I always wondered what had happened to him.
“I can’t remember writing the note, and I find it hard to believe that I wrote such a tedious note. But I was 14, I was a teenager and I tried to shut my mind off from the war. I wouldn’t read the newspaper and I didn’t like the news reels at the cinema. I tried to cut myself off from it, so that’s why I wrote the note. It was quite bad, but I tried to say it was all OK.
“One thing I always remember about Bernard is when a little group of us went to visit the frozen River Trent, and we never told our parents we were going, and we had to walk home in a blizzard. The freezing wind was in our faces, and Bernard only had little short trousers and a flannel blazer on, and he just put his head down and walked.
“My sister walked in front of him to shield him from the wind, and our parents were so cross. I’ve always got that picture of Bernard in my mind, just walking along.”
On Friday, Barbara and Bernard, who are both widowed, reunited for the first time in 40 years and reminisced fondly about their childhood memories – and even shared a kiss.
Bernard said: “To me, it doesn’t seem as though we’ve been apart. Facially and everything, it’s the Barbara I knew. I remember walking through the blizzard vividly, and it went through my mind when I thought about Barbara after I found the note.”
“He wasn’t dressed for snow. I can still see him with his head down, plodding away. He was so brave and we were all so concerned, I can remember thinking, ‘Poor Bernard’,” Barbara said.
The two were full of kind words about one another, with Barbara saying she used to think Bernard looked “jolly handsome” in his RAF uniform back in the day.
“I can see the young Bernard there, absolutely,” she said.
“I always looked up to Barbara. I felt great when I heard she was still alive, but I didn’t expect to see someone who looks as lovely as she does. She’s gorgeous,” added Bernard.
Original artice: https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/all-about/scunthorpe