Pair united over Twiggy and To Sir With Love: Aussie gran searches for long-lost Rush Green pen pal

18:00 26 January 2014

Lucy Chan (back L) with her husband and three grandchildren

Lucy Chan (back L) with her husband and three grandchildren


Before the internet, the ancient art of letter writing kept us in touch across the globe – which is how Lucy Chan, who lives about as far from Romford as anyone can, became interested in our town.

Lucy Chan, née Ling, in 1963 when she was corresponding with Helen TomlinsonLucy Chan, née Ling, in 1963 when she was corresponding with Helen Tomlinson

A resident of Brisbane, Australia, who grew up in Malaysia, Lucy began writing to her penfriend Helen Tomlinson, who lived in Dagenham and later Romford, in 1958.

Lost touch

They lost touch nearly 50 years ago, but now she’d love to get back in touch with the girl she used to write to excitedly about Twiggy and To Sir With Love.

“I think I found Helen for a penfriend in a magazine called School Friend,” remembers Lucy, whose maiden name was Ling.

“We started corresponding and wrote regularly through the years – as often as I could afford the stamps and air letters.”

But the pair lost touch after Lucy – now a grandmother – moved to a different town for her education.

She ended up in Kuala Lumpur, where she studied English at university, before meeting her husband and eventually emigrating to Australia in 1984.

She is now retired, and volunteers as an English teacher.

“I remember sending Helen bits of rubber sheets,” said Lucy, 67, “because my father had a rubber processing and smoking factory.

“Helen sent me beautiful postcards of places in the UK. I think we also exchanged postage stamps.

“My husband and I have visited the UK several times and I have always wondered where Helen is now.”

Lucy’s life in Malaysia would have been a stark contrast to Helen’s childhood in what was then suburban Essex – but just like youngsters today they found common ground in popular culture.

“We enjoyed sharing our experiences growing up in such different environments – yet the pop songs of the day, the fashion icons like Twiggy and movies like To Sir With Love connected us as teenagers,” said Lucy.

“She enriched my life and now I have the time to reconnect with old friends, it would be great to find her again. I think it would be a surprise to Helen to hear from me again – from the bottom of the world this time!”

If you know Helen and would like to get in touch with Lucy, call 020 8477 3778 or


Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 18:00
Maria Rackley, who is organising a shoebox appeal to help disadvantaged children get Christmas presents.

Help make a child’s Christmas in the build up to the festive period by simply donating a shoebox.

Yesterday, 16:56
Planned roadworks will begin on Monday October 31.

A series of roadworks have been scheduled on the M25, A406 and M11.

Yesterday, 16:40
Spurs shirts and other memorabilia line the walls of the games room

An avid football fan who created a shrine to his beloved Tottenham Hotspurs is hoping to win a games room of the year competition.

Yesterday, 15:59
Time FM Steve Allen.

Listen to our weekly paper review podcast on Time 107.5FM with Steve Allen.

Yesterday, 15:00
Erin Macbeth, 12 and Freya Macbeth, seven, with their halloween masks at the Halloween family fun day at Havering Museum.

Little monsters got into the spirit of Halloween with a family fun day yesterday.

Yesterday, 14:52
Fern Gibson, three, with her bandaged duck in a box on her way to the woods at the children's rescuing wildlife workshop at Hornchurch Country Park.

Dozens of children treated wildlife animals in need of help.

Yesterday, 13:31
Queen's Hospital's A&E department

Calls are growing for a ground-breaking emergency care trial which drastically cut A&E waiting times to be rolled out across the capital.

Yesterday, 12:00
Romford Town centre gv's. Romford market

Market traders who have been in Romford for decades will be encouraged to give up their “prime spots” to make way for new stallholders.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news


Show Job Lists

News from your area


Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.


£3,000 goes a long way at Boots

Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

Kit yourself out and go Apple mad!

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now