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OPINION: When messages take the long and winding road

Published on

Phil Egan

Sometimes our mail and email take odd paths before they arrive in a mailbox.

When I was a sea cadet spending the summer training in North Sydney, Nova Scotia at age 16, I sent a letter to my mother. This was the summer of 1963. My mother was confused when the letter finally arrived the following summer – when I was cruising the Great Lakes on a minesweeper with the sea cadets.

A few years back, while still working in the travel publishing business in Toronto, I attended a massive consumer and trade travel show in Berlin. I was representing Canadian Travel Press and was a frequent visitor to the huge pressroom set up for the use of international travel personnel.

About three days into the conference I sat down in the pressroom and sent out, via email, a detailed report on what was taking place at the trade show. I sent the report off to my boss in Toronto, and emailed a copy to my own address in Toronto for my permanent files.

When I got back to Toronto, my boss told me that he never received my report. Nor could I find it among my own emails.

Just over a year later, I was sitting at my desk when it finally arrived after hurtling through cyberspace on its untraceable journey – late, but in my Inbox at last.

These mishaps, however, pale in comparison to the experience of Mrs. David Ritchie of Point Edward. On June 3, 1903, Mrs. Ritchie, prior to her marriage and still a young woman, decided to send off a postcard to her mother. The daughter was studying in Germany at the time and her mother was in Lauder, Berwickshire, Scotland.

The young woman soon forgot about the postcard. She married, and she and her husband decided to make their home in Canada, settling in Point Edward.

Decades later something strange happened. In 1935, the postcard finally arrived in the tiny Scottish town. The postmaster knew the family and, ultimately, the errant postcard was sent to the home of Mrs. Ritchie’s sister in Lauder.

The story of the postcard’s 32-year journey was recounted in the pages of the Edinburgh Scotsman.

One year later, the postcard, together with a clipping from the Scottish newspaper telling the postcard’s tale, arrived in Point Edward at the home of Mrs. Ritchie.

Written in lead pencil, the writing was still legible. Unfortunately, though, Mrs. Ritchie’s mother didn’t live to see her long-lost mail.


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