Penpal re-visits South Tyneside for the first time in 30-years

Penpals of 30 years Michelle Cutler and Wolgang Jarisch visit Jarrow Town Hall.
Penpals of 30 years Michelle Cutler and Wolgang Jarisch visit Jarrow Town Hall.

A foreign exchange student has returned to South Tyneside to visit his pen pal - more than 30 years on.

Wolfgang Jarisch first set foot in the borough in 1982 as part of a schools German exchange programme.

Penpals of 30 years Michelle Cutler and Wolgang Jarisch visit Jarrow Town Hall.
English and German schools exchange in 1981 on South Shields Town Hall steps

Penpals of 30 years Michelle Cutler and Wolgang Jarisch visit Jarrow Town Hall. English and German schools exchange in 1981 on South Shields Town Hall steps

During his time in South Tyneside he met Michelle Cutler and the pair have been writing back and forth ever since.

Mrs Cutler, who works for South Tyneside Homes, has visited Germany on a number of occasions, however, this week was the first time Mr Jarisch had been back to the place that ignited his love of travelling.

The 50-year-old is here from his home in Wuppertal with his wife Christine and their two teenage daughters.

Mrs Cutler, 52, has also kept in touch with her first German pen pal Andrea who she began writing to while a pupil at Mortimer Comprehensive School at the age of 12.

“It’s just really nice to get a letter that isn’t a bill.”

Michelle Cutler

Mrs Cutler who attended Harton Sixth form said: “It was when I was in sixth form. I was taking part in the German exchange visit and Wolfgang was part of the group of students who came to South Tyneside.

“We started writing and kept on writing over the years. When emails started, we did start to send the odd email but we always still sent each other handwritten letters.

“We just became really good friends, sometimes there is a bit of time which passes in between letters but then we just pick up where we left off.

“It’s just really nice to get a letter from time to time that isn’t a bill.”

Michelle and her husband David have visited Wolfgang and his family on a number of occasions - including his 50th birthday celebrations, last year.

Wolfgang and his family arrived in South Tyneside on Wednesday and have already enjoyed trips to Durham, Newcastle, South Shields seafront and to see Whitburn Cricket Club play.

They were also invited to visit the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Alan Smith and his wife Moira, at Jarrow Town Hall.

Other trips before they leave include visits to Edinburgh, Alnwick and York.

Mr Jarisch said: “It has been a lovely trip so far. We like to learn about the British way of life.

“It was such a long time ago since I was last here.

“I did not expect to keep in touch for such a long time.

“The visit, for me, was very important as it made me want to start travelling to other countries which I have.”