Ruth Magee and Beryl Richmond’s friendship has stood the test of time – and distance.
Despite living more than 3,000 miles (4,828 km) apart, in Canada and the UK respectively, they’ve been the best of friends for more than 80 years.
Their close relationship was forged through writing letters to each other.
They wrote about their jobs, meeting and marrying their husbands, welcoming their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, they kept each other’s spirits up during the Second World War, and shared all of their ups and downs with one another.
Now aged 95, they hold the record for longest lasting pen friendship (pen pals) with a whopping 83 years 172 days of correspondence.
The duo was first awarded the record in 2018 after 78 years 160 days of writing to each other.
And although worsening eyesight means they can’t write to each other as often these days, their love for one another is as strong as ever.
It all started in 1939 when one of Ruth’s teachers started up a pen pal project.
She wrote her initial letter, knowing only that she was writing to a child her age all the way across the world in the UK.
Ruth, from Ontario, Canada, and Beryl, from Liverpool, England, were paired up, and clearly it was a match made in heaven.
Ruth said: “I was only 10 or 11 at the time and we didn’t think too much about what was going on, we just enjoyed writing to each other, and I had no idea I’d still be writing to her at 95, in fact, I didn’t even think that 15 years ago.
“We used to write several times a year but now it’s mainly down to birthdays and Christmas.
“We both have poor eyesight, I have very poor eyesight for writing and I find it very hard to do now so it’s just very short notes, but we still enjoy keeping in touch.”
Speaking to us on Beryl’s behalf, her son Alan added: “It all started when her teacher organized in 1939 with her class to write a letter to reply to letters from similar aged children in Canada. Beryl’s letter was chosen by the teacher as the best letter to send to Ruth and that was how it all started.
“Unfortunately, the teacher kept Ruth’s letter so Beryl does not have it though Ruth has Beryl’s first letter to her.
“It was interesting to find out about Ruth’s life in Canada and nice to have a pen friend.”
Ruth, who worked as a bookkeeper, was married to Earl, who passed away 19 years ago. Together they welcomed children Diane, John and Daniel, before being blessed with grandchildren James and Chelsea and great-granddaughter Kayleigh.
Beryl, a retired secretary and later housewife, moved from Liverpool to Glasgow, Scotland, in 1951 after she married her husband Archie.
They’d met in 1945 while she was on holiday on the Isle of Man and he was serving in the Navy.
They settled down together in Glasgow and welcomed sons David and Alan, before sadly, Archie died in 1975 at the age of 51.
Beryl is also a grandmother to Amy, Lucy, Susanna and Mark, and a great-grandmother to Maisie, Wilf, Pippa, Thomas and Mark.
Ruth and Beryl have met up in person twice; once in 1986 and again in 2009.
The first time, Ruth flew over to Scotland with her daughter, and says she and Beryl recognized each other straight away.
“We knew each other right off the bat because we sent pictures back and forth at that time.” - Ruth
Beryl said that something just clicked between them when they started writing to each other.
“When they met face to face for the first time Beryl thought that there was no strangeness between them as they knew so much about each other,” her son explained.
“It didn’t feel like meeting a stranger as they knew each other so well from all the letters they had written to each other.
“Beryl says it would have been good to meet more but it just didn’t happen. But they have remained good friends all these years.”
They met up again in 2009 when Ruth’s church organized a trip to Scotland. She jumped at the opportunity to go back and to see Beryl again, this time with her son Daniel in tow.
Ruth and Beryl’s lives seem to have always been intertwined.
Their birthdays are just a few days apart and they married their husbands within weeks of each other.
The friendship was clearly a special one for Ruth, who admits she once had another pen pal from the east coast of Canada, but that they lost touch years ago.
Despite each moving home numerous times and through getting engaged, married, expanding their families, losing their husbands, and retiring from work, one thing has remained constant for Ruth and Beryl – writing to each other.
The pair, who also chat on the phone from time to time, say they’re thrilled that their friendship is officially record-breaking.
Ruth said: “It’s quite a surprise and we were thrilled when we got the final result.
“I’m thrilled that we’re still in touch.”
And Beryl added through her son: “It feels really nice. An achievement, but one that didn’t feel like hard work as it was enjoyable and fun writing to Ruth.”
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