Dis­tance makes the heart grow fonder

Dubbo Photo News - - Their story - By YVETTE AUBUS­SON-FO­LEY

Brid­get (cen­tre) and Anne (se­cond from right) as chil­dren on Brownsea Is­land, in Poole Har­bour where Sir Baden Pow­ell fa­mously formed the Cub Scouts. DUBBO lo­cal Brid­get Mann and Bri­tish na­tional Anne Monkcom have been life­long friends since meet­ing in primary school in Poole, Dorset in the UK; yet for most of that friend­ship they’ve lived on op­po­site sides of the world.

When Anne vis­ited from Eng­land re­cently, Dubbo Photo News sat down with the pair to learn how they’ve kept their con­nec­tion alive – and mostly dur­ing a time be­fore the in­ven­tion of so­cial me­dia.

“We met at primary school. Brid­get was in the year ahead of me. My fam­ily had moved from the north of Eng­land down to Poole to the south coast. We were both about six years old,” Anne ex­plained.

“My fa­ther was a Catholic head mas­ter in Manch­ester and he moved to open the sec­ondary Catholic School in Poole.”

When it came time to go to high school they went their sep­a­rate ed­u­ca­tional ways but stayed firm friends.

“We still met up at week­ends right up un­til Brid­get left,” Anne said, re­fer­ring to a dra­matic change in 1969 which saw Brid­get im­mi­grate to Australia. She was 12-and-a-half years old.

“Mum and Dad were re­ally good friends with this other fam­ily and he was one of these ‘way out’ guys, and he’d said, ‘We’re go­ing to Australia, do you want to come?’ Dad said ‘yes’,” Brid­get ex­plained.

“So, you go through all the process of do­ing all the work – I was too young to un­der­stand all that – but then the other fam­ily pulled out!

“(De­spite that), Mum and Dad kept on go­ing and we came in the May of 1969. I turned 13 in the Oc­to­ber. I think my par­ents were like ev­ery fam­ily at that time, look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties, and bet­ter weather.”

Brid­get and her five sib­lings at that time came to Australia. “We flew here, in­stead of com­ing on a ship.” Another sis­ter, Ker­rie, was born in Orange seven years later.

Ar­riv­ing in a new coun­try with no sup­port net­work was daunt­ing.

“We had no one and noth­ing re­ally. We were in Villa­wood mi­grant camp. I re­mem­ber my Dad cry­ing the day we ar­rived in Australia into Villa­wood. We lived in one of those Nis­san huts. It was re­ally hard. That was our first im­pres­sion of Australia. If he could, he would have taken us straight back.”

Even­tu­ally job op­por­tu­ni­ties arose for her fa­ther.

“We all drove up to Orange with Dad who had this job in­ter­view. One of the rea­sons we came to Australia was be­cause of the weather, and we got to Orange and it snowed!

“That’s where we set­tled. I was so ner­vous go­ing to school in Orange, but they were so welcoming and warm. It was dif­fer­ent to Syd­ney which I hated. There were no other chil­dren from Eng­land. Fun­nily, less than 12 months later our ‘way out’ friend and his fam­ily fol­lowed.”

After a gap of 27 years ex­chang­ing let­ters and pho­to­graphs, Anne and Brid­get fi­nally met again to rekin­dle their old friend­ship in per­son, sadly on the event of Brid­get’s mother dying in 1996.

“Dad went back to Eng­land, he’s Ir­ish, so he went back to have time with his fam­ily. I met him over there and that was the first time Anne and I had seen each other since primary school.”

Eleven years after that Anne man­aged to make her way to Australia.

“It was my daugh­ter who re­ally got us here. When she left school at 18 she wanted to do a gap year trav­el­ling, and I re­ally didn’t want her go­ing off around the world. We had lived a long time in Cyprus which is quite a small is­land. You don’t re­ally have to worry about se­cu­rity on Cyprus. It was wor­ry­ing enough that she would be go­ing to Eng­land!” Anne said.

“I thought, ‘How can I solve this?’, so I de­cided to ask Brid­get, be­cause we were still com­mu­ni­cat­ing by let­ter, if it was pos­si­ble for her to do a bit of vol­un­tary work in St Pius where Brid­get

Life­long friends:

Anne Monkcom from the UK and lo­cal Brid­get Mann. worked.

“Any­way, it was all ar­ranged and then we started to think we’d quite like to go to Australia too. As it turned out, our daugh­ter came first, she did a term at the school and we came over in the March and all went back to­gether.

“When we came here that time, Brid­get’s hus­band Geoff had said it was like fill­ing in the last piece of the jig­saw,” Anne said.

And so, 10 years later, with sev­eral catch-ups in be­tween, Anne has re­turned again to Dubbo for another visit and a life­long friend­ship is main­tained.

Thanks for shar­ing your story ladies! ■

Anne and Brid­get in Syd­ney ear­lier this year The ladies with hus­bands Steve and Ge­off

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