Luton and Dunstable friends reunited after 70 years apart

Two friends who hadn’t seen each other for 70 years have been reunited in Luton thanks to a special tea party.

Friday, 3rd May 2019, 4:29 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd May 2019, 4:33 pm
Pat and Ina

Great-grandmothers Ina Rousay, 87, and Patricia Smith, 86, became pals when they both attended Tollington Grammar School for Girls, a secondary school in Muswell Hill, north London, but lost touch after Ina left in 1948 to work for Barclays Bank whilst Pat stayed on for another year.

They both moved away from London, got married and had children. They now have 22 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren between the two of them. Ina moved to Dunstable in 1966 and Pat to Luton in 2009.

Unbeknown to them, they were living less than five miles apart for years and it wasn’t until they both joined a tea party group organised by the charity Contact the Elderly that they saw each other again.

Pat said: “I didn’t recognise her immediately after all these years but as soon as she said her name, I wondered if it could be her as it’s so unusual. I said: ‘Oh, I went to school with a girl called Ina but I’ve never come across it again’.

“With further chat, it turned out that it was the same Ina who had been my classmate and friend.

“Our memories of school life are quite different as Ina was good at maths and sports; I was good at English and arts and crafts, but hopeless at all sports.

“We still haven’t finished our ‘do you remember’ talks yet. She doesn’t remember that we had a school song, but I was able to remember all of it. Other things she remembers, and I don’t.”

Since reuniting in October the pair now see each other monthly at Contact the Elderly’s tea party group in Luton.

Ina added: “I really never thought I’d see Pat again after we went our separate ways as children - so it was so nice to see her again.I used to feel quite lonely before joining Contact the Elderly.

“I don’t know a lot of people who live in the area, I don’t drive anymore, and my children are living quite spread out across the UK.

“It took a lot of courage for me to join the tea party so I’m glad that I met a familiar face. Pat remembers much more than I do, even what I was good at in school.”

Contact the Elderly, a UK charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people, provides monthly gatherings for people aged 75 plus who live alone.

Visit: www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk or freephone 0800 716 543.