Friendship resumes after 43 years

 MARGARET Barratt and Lesley Holt had not seen each other since 1969 —  had it not been for a story in the Leader, it is doubtful  their friendship would have resumed.

Ms Barratt, 72, believes the last occasion was her wedding, but Ms Holt, 70, cannot remember for sure if she went because she had been in an accident and had a long rehabilitation.

But both agree  they had been great friends since 1963 when they met at Frensham at Mittagong where they were teachers. Ms Holt, from Kogarah at the time, taught English, and Ms Barratt, from the north side, taught biology.

During their period at Mittagong, Ms Holt had a car accident, then a stroke, which put an end to her teaching career. After rehabilitation, she became a librarian and eventually moved to Elizabeth Bay.

Meantime, Ms Barratt married and moved overseas. They never managed to connect during those years for various reasons.

Nine years ago, after 20 years in Canberra, Ms Barratt returned to Sydney to retire, and chose Sans Souci. She immediately thought of her old friend.

‘‘I knew she had gone to St George High School, so I looked out for the school reunions in the Leader and kept asking if they knew Lesley Holt,’’ she said.

‘‘After three years, somebody said her married name was McFarland and she lived in Sutherland Shire, so I rang every McFarland but [to no avail]. I gave up about six years ago.’’

In November, when the Leader was running stories about Griffith House at Kogarah being demolished to make way for St George Hospital’s emergency department, there was a picture in the paper of the Holt girls.

Pat Gordon of Vaucluse, formerly Pat Holt, had contacted the Leader in support of Griffith House’s preservation and talked about growing up in Kogarah  with her three sisters, and she sent a picture of  ‘‘the Holt girls’’.

There were enough clues  for Ms Barratt to believe she was  on a winner.

‘‘I rang all the Gordons at Vaucluse and the third one was Pat,’’ she said.

‘‘And yes, Lesley was her sister.’’

WHAT PEOPLE WANT

 Margaret Barratt says the Leader is a pretty good guide of what is happening in the community.

When she settled at Sans Souci, she noticed in an advertisement that St George Mental Health was looking for a bus driver for its drop-in centre at the Kogarah Storehouse for people with mental health problems.

Since then, she has been volunteering her time most Tuesdays, picking up clients in the small bus or taking out a big bus if a large number was going on an outing.

Apart from driving, she does all the catering and much of the support work.

It’s a good group, she says, and more people should know about it.

The group meets on Tuesdays from noon to 3.30pm, and has bingo, poker, parties, painting classes, trips and various other activities.

 The Storehouse is in the Uniting Church, Gray Street, Kogarah.

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