Letter link lasts long
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.