Margaret Olsen is looking forward to a visit from her pen friend of 66 years. Photo: Mike Knott pen2109a
Margaret Olsen is looking forward to a visit from her pen friend of 66 years. Photo: Mike Knott pen2109a

Penpals come face to face

OCEANS and almost seven decades have not been enough to stop a 66-year-long pen friendship between Bundaberg woman Margaret Olsen and her English penpal Margaret Trinder.

The pair began exchanging letters when they were schoolgirls in the 1940s and, next month, Mrs Olsen will celebrate her 80th birthday with her Northamptonshire friend by her side.

“Margaret is coming to spend five days with me for my birthday,” Mrs Olsen said. “It’s very exciting.”

The former nurse said the pair began exchanging letters when her high school teacher said writing to a pen friend would help improve her English skills.

“I had pen friends in New Zealand, Canada and India as well, but Margaret and I have held on all that time,” she said.

“We are more like sisters than pen friends now after all of these years.”

Mrs Olsen said the friends had shared their triumphs, trials and tragedies and knowing Margaret was there for her, no matter how big the distance, was always a comforting thought.

“When we were teenagers growing up, we would tell each other things in letters that we would never have told anyone else,” Mrs Olsen said.

“I was 14 years old when we started and she is two years younger than I am.”

This will be the fourth time the long distance friends will have come face to face.

“My husband and I went to visit her in 1977 and she and her husband offered for us to use their home as a base for our travelling,” Mrs Olsen said.

“She came to Australia 10 years ago. I remember it was at the same time as the Childers backpacker fire and we went to Childers because she heard there were English backpackers there.”

Mrs Olsen said she would be making the most of what she expects will be the last time she will see her friend.

“Being realistic, I am about to turn 80. I think this will be the last time we will see each other,” she said.

“It is very exciting, but very sad at the same time.”

Mrs Trinder will arrive in Australia on October 9 and Mrs Olsen said she would put aside all else for her.

“Even though it is my birthday on the 12th, I have told my family that we won’t be doing anything until Margaret is gone,” she said.

“I really want to spend as much time together as we can.

“The relatives will just have to wait.”



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