Pen pals of 47 years go from letters to daily updates

A Cork woman had told how her pen pal friendship, which has lasted almost half a century, has changed with time from old-fashioned letters to instant social media posts.

Pen pals still friends after 40 years of handwritten notes. Esther Truslove from Tralee and her pen pal Rita Gauci from Malta pictured in Tralee.

Macroom mother of two Esther Truslove has been writing to Rita Gauci from Malta for almost five decades after seeing an advertisement for penpals in a Jackie magazine when she was just 12.

While she went to Malta to meet her pal for the first time in 1980 for Rita’s wedding, she was overjoyed when her penpal finally made the return journey and came to Ireland to visit her last week after 47 years of correspondence.

And the chef, who now lives in Tralee, said the monthly letters which she would wait patiently for the postman to deliver to her remote Cork childhood home have now turned into daily chats on Facebook.

“When I was younger, I couldn’t wait for the postman to come,” she said. “Now we’re after upgrading to modern technology.

“There would be hundreds of letters then social media came in. So we’re on Messenger and Facebook. She would check on me every day.

“We still do the occasional letter. It’s five decades. I have one photo of her when she was 14. She cried when she saw the picture on this visit.”

Esther remembers seeing an ad for a pen pal organisation in a magazine like Jackie in the early 70s.

She said: “We were about 12. I loved writing letters and Rita has stayed with me all through the years. She still lives in the same address, although I moved around.

"I used to ring her at Christmas. We never drifted apart. I’ve a letter from 20 years ago with the stamp from the World Cup in 1998.”

But before social media, she said, the letters from Malta were a God-send.

“Where I lived was in the countryside in the middle of nowhere,” said Esther. “We were five miles from Macroom town. We lived in a farm and the post man was always welcome. It was your only contact with the outside world. It was different times.”

She said they have shared all the milestone of their lives over the last 50 years.

“She had four boys and two grandsons and one granddaughter,” said Esther. “In the olden days, she would send a photo when they were born and you would have to return it back to her. Holy Communion time she would always send me a prayer and a rosary beads.”

And she said that the friendship has now been passed down the generations, with her son and daughter becoming pals with Rita’s children.

“I brought them to Malta and they had a great time with Rita’s children. It was like they knew each other all their lives.”

She said her pal got a full blast of Irish weather when she arrived last week.

“Her son put it together and travelled with her. We did the Ring of Kerry and Dingle. Now she understands what I mean when I say it’s cold.” said Esther, laughing.

“She said she will never forget her trip to Ireland.”


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