Friends reunited after 74 years

Margaret Jackson reunion. By Lee Hellwing.
Margaret Jackson reunion. By Lee Hellwing.

Brian Shuker and Margaret Jackson holding family photographsPhoto: Lee Hellwing

The fathers of Margaret Jackson and Brian Shuker served together in the Army during the war.

George Shuker was concerned about his Portsmouth-based wife’s safety as bombs were raining down on the city, so he asked his friend George Townsend if she could stay with his wife and family and his friend said yes.

And so, in the summer of 1941, Nan Shuker packed up her bags and moved into Lambeth Walk in Stamford with Connie Townsend and her four young daughters, including five-year-old, Margaret. In October that year, Brian was born in the three-bed home and the pair spent almost three years in the town before heading back to Portsmouth in 1944 after bombing in the area subsided.

Ever since, Brian and Margaret’s families have maintained a strong bond – exchanging cards, letters and gifts – and for several years after the war ended, Brian’s parents visited the Townsend family in Stamford.

On Monday, Brian headed to Stamford for an emotional reunion with Margaret in what was the first time the pair had met in 74 years.

Margaret, who lives in Newcomb Court, said: “He has never forgotten us and it is nice. When I heard he was coming I said I couldn’t believe it. When I heard the knock at the door this morning it was just great.”

Margaret added that although she didn’t really remember Brian staying with her as she was so young, her sister Midge Stephenson, 82, fondly remembers pushing him in his pram along Lambeth Walk.

An emotional Brian, 75, said he had always wanted to thank the family for taking him and his mother in and meeting Margaret had helped him express his gratitude.

He said: “I never got to see Connie and it is something I have always regretted. This makes it better. I still wish that I had seen her, but this makes it better.”

Up until her death in October 2015, Brian’s sister, Jean, had been keeping in contact with Margaret, a former beer bottler at Melbourn’s brewery in Stamford, and the rest of the family .

It was one of her dying wishes that Brian maintained contact after she passed away and ever since April last year he has happily done exactly that.

Brian said of Margaret: “She is like a big sister to me.”