Let­ter link lasts long

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART ni­cola.ste­wart@wrcn.co.nz

In the course of a friend­ship span­ning five decades Mar­ion Dil­lon and Les­ley Tay­lor have met just five times.

While Mar­ion calls Mata­mata home, Les­ley lives more than 16,000km away in Leicester, Eng­land.

Theirs is a friend­ship mea­sured not by dis­tance but by let­ters.

The women have writ­ten to each other hun­dreds of times over the past 51 years, start­ing when they were just 12.

Both were Girl Guides at the time and were asked if they would like to write to some­one liv­ing on the other side of the world.

‘‘I picked Les­ley’s name out of the hat and just started writ­ing,’’ said Mar­ion.

‘‘I never imag­ined I would be writ­ing to her 50 years later or that we would meet.’’

They quickly be­came friends and grew up to­gether as they shared their lives through pen on pa­per.

‘‘When we first started we were both in school so we would write about that, then it was go­ing to work, then it was get­ting mar­ried, then hav­ing chil­dren, then grand­chil­dren,’’ said Mar­ion.

She has kept ev­ery sin­gle let­ter that Les­ley has sent her. The friends first met in 2002 when Les­ley and her hus­band Roger came to New Zealand.

They were in­ter­viewed by the Mata­mata Chron­i­cle at the time and said they were amazed to find they were just like sis­ters.

‘‘Even be­fore we met, which was 40 years af­ter we started writ­ing, we were al­ways very close just through let­ters and pho­tos,’’ said Mar­ion.

Five years later, they met twice, first in New Zealand and then Eng­land, where Mar­ion met mem­bers of Les­ley’s fam­ily.

Last year, Mar­ion once again boarded an Eng­land-bound plane, this time to visit her son in Lon­don and to mark the 50th year since she wrote that first let­ter.

Ar­riv­ing at the train sta­tion in Leicester, she was sur­prised by a cam­era crew from BBC East Mid­lands there to film a seg­ment on the friend’s story for the lo­cal news.

They were also in­ter­viewed live on the lo­cal BBC ra­dio, with the jour­nal­ist pro­claim­ing, ‘‘no one writes let­ters any­more’’.

Mar­ion and Les­ley were quick to re­ply: ‘‘We do.’’

Even with the con­ve­nience and speed of mod­ern email­ing and video call­ing, the friends in­sist they will con­tinue to write each other for as long as they are able.

‘‘It’s an art isn’t it – what we are still do­ing,’’ said Mar­ion.

The friends were back to­gether last week, with Les­ley and Roger ar­riv­ing in New Zealand fresh off a cruise to San Fran­cisco, Hawaii and Samoa.

They were plan­ning on a re­lax­ing few days in Mata­mata, in­clud­ing a trip to the Hob­biton Movie Set.

‘‘Although I may have to spring some­thing on them,’’ said Mar­ion.

‘‘I have to get them back for the TV cam­eras at the train sta­tion some­how.’’

Long-dis­tance: Les­ley Tay­lor (left) from Eng­land and Mar­ion Dil­lon from Mata­mata have been writ­ing to each other for 51 years.

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