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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

The joy of a letter

Who doesn’t love to receive a personal letter? But these days, we’re more likely to communicate by email, text or message.

Helen Baggott, author of Posted in the Past, the book which reveals the stories behind postcards sent more than a hundred years ago, brought my attention to a news article entitled, Connections in disconnected times, about a 17 year-old student, Riona Nolan, who’s started a trend of writing letters.

Riona penned a letter to a friend who lives nearby, but due to the Coronavirus lockdown, they hadn’t been able to see one another. She got such a good feeling from writing it and getting a reply, she wrote to lots of other people, who similarly responded with their own handwritten letters.

In the Facebook post where Helen shared the story of the student, she showed a photograph of a postcard she’d written and sent to herself last month, recording her thoughts in these uncertain times.

In the family history archive

As a child and teenager, I had several pen pals but sadly haven’t kept the letters I received. But I‘m lucky in having some personal correspondence in my family history archive.

Among them is the letter almost revealing the secret about black sheep of the family, my maternal great-grandfather. There are WWI postcards to my gran from her brother and my granddad, letters sent to my parents on their honeymoon as well as those exchanged between them before they were married (ah, bless...) and one to my mum written by a friend when they were both children.

I also have all the correspondence I received when my parents and sister lived in Canada for a short period over 40 years ago. The weekly letters chart their arrival, their search for somewhere to live and daily life for the duration of their stay, serving as a valuable family history record of their time abroad.

The earliest dated correspondence I have has featured on this blog before, a postcard sent to my great uncle from a friend and colleague when they were both working in service before the First World War.

Postcards from home

Ordinarily at this time of the year, we'd be out and about in our campervan, visiting different places and sharing our photos on Facebook. But, of course, all that is currently out of the question.

So, inspired by Helen and Riona, I'm going to write some postcards from home and send them to whoever I think will enjoy them most. And if the recipients choose to keep them, they'll become a record of what was going on in the Percival household during these very strange times!



Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
May 22, 2020

You're very welcome, Helen. Yes, I’m sure you’re right. Perhaps it’s because there’s a comfort and stability about what’s gone before, less scary than an uncertain future.


Helen Baggott
Helen Baggott
May 22, 2020

Thank you so much for the mention, Wendy. I'm not sure why it is, but many of us are reaching out and connecting with our pasts at the moment. I have postcards my parents sent me from their holidays, and I know they will be treasured over the coming years.

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