The letters written by Brenda Barker and Sheila Scott

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Abbeyfield Society

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The schoolgirls’ letters were “very emotive”, the Abbeyfield Society said

A charity is appealing for help tracing two former schoolgirls who penned touching letters to an elderly stranger more than 60 years ago.

Sheila Scott and Brenda Barker, of Newcastle, were 12 when they contacted an 80-year-old living in a London home run by the Abbeyfield Society.

The hand-written messages were discovered in a scrapbook which belonged to the organisation’s founder.

The charity described them as a “wonderful snapshot in time”.

The girls – pupils at North Heaton Secondary Modern School and St John Ambulance Brigade cadets – wrote to a pensioner called Mr Halnan in May 1956.

The former newspaper seller, losing his sight due to cataracts, was set to undergo an operation.

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Abbeyfield Society

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Mr Halnan (left) was one of the first two residents at the society’s Bermondsey home

Sheila, a fan of needlework and swimming, told him: “I took it upon myself to write to you. I hope it is a comfort to you.”

Brenda said she was 5ft 7in tall with light brown hair and hazel eyes, that her form mistress was named Miss Booth and her favourite lesson was maths.

Mr Halnan lived at an Abbeyfield property in Eugenia Road, Bermondsey, the first to be opened by the society set up by Richard Carr-Gomm.

Mr Carr-Gomm, who had given up his military career to help the homeless and lonely and was later awarded an OBE, kept the letters in a scrapbook.

He died in 2008, aged 86, and his family donated it to the society two years ago.

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Abbeyfield Society

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The letters were kept alongside correspondence from Princess Anne, politicians and showbusiness figures.

Abbeyfield research manager Sarah Heaney said the girls possibly wrote the letters after seeing publicity around the home’s opening.

“He [Mr Carr-Gomm] was very well networked, was friends with Audrey Hepburn and her mother who were benefactors of the first home, knew Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and was close to King Freddie, the deposed king of Uganda,” she said.

“Yet amongst all this we find two extraordinary letters from two ordinary schoolgirls.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Abbeyfield Society’s national headquarters.

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