G’day... old pals have an emotional reunion
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A GROUP of four childhood friends from Teesdale have been reunited almost four decades later in Australia.
Caroline Rawson, Kathleen Teasdale and Vivien Longstaff, from Cockfield, and Julie Bowers, from Barnard Castle, were almost inseparable in the mid-1970s, but that ended in 1980 when one of the group, Caroline, moved down under, and the others started their own families.
Although Caroline emigrated, Kathleen and Vivien remained Cockfield girls.
Vivien said: “Julie visited Caroline a couple of times in the early years but it was not until the magic of Facebook that I got back in touch, probably about ten years ago when Caroline added me as a friend.”
The group started planning their reunion about three years ago.
Vivien said: “As it got closer, we began to believe it was really going to happen and started to get excited.
“I must add that it was Kathleen’s first ever flight.
“We have just spent three days in Sydney, taking in the hustle and bustle of Sydney life, a little shopping, as well as soaking up the sun and cruising the stunningly beautiful Sydney Harbour.
“We also took a trip to the Blue Mountains, and the beautiful town of Leura, which always reminds me of Barnard Castle, and Scenic World which allows you to explore a rain forest via the worlds steepest public funicular railway.”
The group’s tour also included a visit to the areas devastated by bushfires.
The three Cockfield girls became friends through meeting at primary school in the village and played together in the village and on the fell. Later Caroline went to Barnard Castle Grammar School where she met and made friends with Julie, while Vivien and Kathleen attended school at Staindrop.
The four would get together outside of school. All of the girls had jobs when they reached their early teens.
Vivien said: “These were happy days, as it meant we had money for the weekend to go to Bishop Auckland on the OK bus, Barnard Castle and Darlington on the Service 8 to Barney and 12 to Darlington.
“We had much more freedom then than children do now and frequently went on our own on the bus. It made us independent and we certainly weren't wrapped in cotton wool.
“Moving on to our later teenage years we would spend our evenings hanging around The Welcome Inn, with other village teenagers because it had the perfect wall for us to sit on.
“This was run by Tom and Flora Robinson and they were very tolerant of us and only moved us on if we became too noisy.
“We played tennis on the hard courts in Cockfield, went swimming to the local baths in Bishop Auckland, played football on the village green, went to youth club discos in the church hall opposite the church, no longer there.”
During their reunion in Australia, the group held a special 1970s themed fancy dress party to celebrate their 60th birthdays.
Vivien said: “We boogied until the early hours. Since then the years have just rolled away, you would think we had never been apart – four friends for life.”