Love letters between a local woman and her Canadian fiancé have been published by their son on what would have been their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Newtownabbey teacher Peggy Strain got engaged to Ontario native Art Frizzell four days after meeting him on holiday in 1963.
The pair met at a dance in Prince Edward Country, Ontario after being set up by friends. However, as their son Colin reveals, the pair nearly did not meet at all. He explained: “Art was a bit of a rogue and at 40 years old, a confirmed bachelor. So when his niece got her mother, Art’s sister Grace, involved in setting him up with some strange Irishwoman that he’d never met, well, he wasn’t too keen. And Peggy, she went along with it as much to be a gracious guest as anything.
“There was to be a dance at the Lake-on-the-Mountain hall. Grace would bring Peggy and Art would come with his brothers. But Art, having never meet Peggy, decided that she wouldn’t be his ‘type’ and went into town to have a few drinks with the boys.
“After a few hours, Peggy was none too amused with this Canadian hospitality. Meanwhile, Art, was getting pretty bored with town and decided to head home. Since Lake-on-the-Mountain was on his way he saw no harm in stopping by—this was when the small town country boy first learned of an Irish temper. He was instantly captivated and though she didn’t show it, so was she. Four days later, they were engaged.”
The couple were then forced to correspond by letter for eight months after Peggy, who did not own a telephone, returned home to Northern Ireland.
The letters reveal the strength of their affection. In her first letter to her fiancée, Peggy writes: “Art, I do love you so. Ireland doesn’t seem home to me any more because you are not here. It is true when they say home is where the heart is.”
The separation was equally difficult for Art, who responded: “I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that nothing has changed. I sometimes think it must have been just a wonderful dream. I guess I’ll not really believe it’s true until I hold you in my arms again. I love you very much and think of you constantly.”
The couple went on to enjoy 39 years of happy married life in Canada and had three children before Art’s death in 2003.
Peggy told the Newtownabbey Times: “The letters were extremely important and I just lived for them. I felt closer to him when I was reading his letters; it was like having him beside me. When I read them now, it brings him back.”
The decision to turn the letters into a book was taken by Colin 11 years after his father’s death. He said: “What I didn’t know was that my dad had kept all of Mom’s letters and that Mom still had a few of Dad’s. I didn’t find that out until after his passing.I missed my dad and these letters help keep him close and allowed me to get to know more about him.”
Colin decided to type the letters out to preserve them for future generations of the family. After receiving positive feedback when he published some letters on his blog, Colin decided to publish them as an e-book.
He continued: “I pondered the notion, thought about making it available to a wider readership and how Mom, now 86, would get to see them published.
“Also, whenever I work on the letters I feel Dad is closer to me. I thought some people might like to see that a lasting love can be very real, and to share in the journey. The letters could still mean something to a few feeling hearts.”
Colin released ‘Such Little Time: A Collection of Love Letters’ on Amazon to mark what would have been his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary on June 6, 2014. He revealed: “Mom found out on Mother’s Day that her and Dad are now authors. There were tears shed. Some stories just need to be told. Love stories especially, because the world needs more of them.”