Published: 00:01, 09 July 2016
Two friends who lost touch for almost 80 years have been reunited after moving by chance into the same residential home.
Peggy Rouse, 97, and Beryl Goodburn, 95, could not believe their eyes when they met each other. Despite the passage of time, the women, who first struck up their friendship as teenagers, recognised each other instantly and are now catching up on many lost years.
Peggy was amazed to see Beryl on her arrival.
“I couldn’t believe it when I walked in here and just recognised her so well,” said Peggy. “I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw her sitting here.
“I thought ‘I can’t believe it, after all these years’. It was like a miracle.”
Beryl was equally stunned. “I thought to myself ‘I know that lady’. Then she turned around, she looked at me and said ‘Beryl?’ and I said ‘Peggy?’.
“It was wonderful.”
The two women, now both great-grandmothers, first met when they started working at the age of 14 at cable manufacturer Henley’s in Northfleet.
Their friendship extended to enjoying the company’s social and cycling clubs, often biking in one day to Margate and back.
The pair also took holidays together, but the onset of the Second World War saw them go their separate ways and they lost touch – until now.
“We had wonderful days at Henley’s, but we lost touch because of the war and we never met again,” said Peggy.
“I married in 1941 and left to have my first child. Our lives were so totally different during the war we just lost touch.”
Both continued to live in Northfleet, raising their families.
Peggy’s husband was Ted Rouse, the first leader of Gravesham council and who became known as Mr Northfleet and also commanded a unit during the Normandy landings.
They had three children –although their first-born died – two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Beryl, whose maiden name was Snelling, married Harold Goodburn and had two children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“I think it’s terrific we instantly recognised each other" - Peggy Rouse
Since being reunited, the two have picked up where they left off, filling their days with plenty of chat and laughter.
“If I hadn’t walked in here I might never have seen her again,” Peggy said. “I think it’s terrific we instantly recognised each other.”
“We couldn’t have changed a bit,” added Beryl, only to be affectionately rebuked by Peggy, who replied: “Well, we have a bit because we’re older.”
As well as sharing a past, the two women are also looking forward to a future together at The Hollies home in Gravesend.
“There can’t be many of us still around who are in their 90s and worked at that time at Henley’s,” said Peggy.
“But life is busy enough that we don’t want to talk just about Henley’s. It’s taken me a time to settle in, but Beryl being here is an added bonus.”