A couple who split as teens when he emigrated to Australia have reunited and married 35 YEARS later – despite living on opposite sides of the world.
Childhood sweethearts Carolyn Walker, 51 and Ian Cook, 50, met as teenagers in 1979 and fell in love.
They were first loves and dated for about two years before they were banned from getting engaged and Ian’s family emigrated to Oz.
The pair lost touch until a surprise online reunion in 2010 when he found her on Friends Reunited.
Carolyn left behind her life in England to rediscover her lost love and, 35 years after they met, the couple married.
She said: “I feel very lucky; it feels like I’ve won the lottery. I’ve never been happier. I never used believe in fate – now I do. We were meant to be together.”
The pair met at school in Frome, Somerset, where Ian, 14, was in Carolyn’s, 15, younger sister Joanne’s year.
“We were inseparable from the moment we met,” she said. “It was proper first love. We wanted to get engaged, but our parents said no. ”
Smitten Carolyn was “devastated” when Ian moved away. Although they got on with their separate lives, Carolyn never married and although Ian had a marriage that ended, neither of them had children.
“I think he must have always been in the back of my mind. I never ever wanted to marry or start a family with anybody,” Carolyn said.
They could have met again in 1990 when Carolyn visited Adelaide with her younger sister for a six-month holiday, but she got cold feet.
She said: “We were going to knock on Ian’s door but the morning we were going to do it, I chickened out.
“I regretted that big time when I got home. But obviously the time wasn’t right for us.”
Twenty years later and out of the blue, a shocked Carolyn received a message from Ian on the website Friends Reunited in May 2010.
She said: “I was on a girls night out with my sister and I saw this message from Ian Cook and I thought ‘THE Ian Cook?! It can’t be!’.”
It said: “Hi, I’m not sure if you’re the right person I’m looking for, but have you got a sister called Jo?”.
A flurry of messages and two days later, they heard each other’s voices for the first time in more than 30 years.
She was unsettled by his Australian accent but Carolyn was surprised by how natural it felt to speak to Ian on the phone.
“It was so weird, it was like we had spoken last week. We chatted for about three hours that first time,” she said.
Just five months later, Carolyn took a gamble by booking one-way ticket to Australia for a reunion with Ian – and she hasn’t returned since.
“We both knew that something was still there; before I even left England we knew that we were going to be together.
“I was determined this was going to be my life. I was nervous on the flight but Ian met me at the airport and we just ran into each other’s arms.
“We’ve got a lot older but I could see it was him, he hadn’t changed that much.”
Within a month of their October reunion, they got each other’s names tattooed on their wrists to show how committed they were to each other.
Ian, an operations supervisor in the oil and gas industry, got down on one knee on Christmas that year and the couple finally married on 29 December 2013 – 35 years after they first fell in love.
They had to wait for a permanent visa for Carolyn, who works in retail, and wanted all of her family to be able to come to Adelaide for their special day.
“The weirdest thing is not being called Carolyn Walker any more! I was that name for 50 years, and now I’m a Mrs. I never felt I wanted to get married before, but this just felt right,” Carolyn said.
“Some times I have to pinch myself now, I think I might be dreaming all. It is unbelievable.”
Carolyn’s parents Alan and Vera Walker, of Frome, Somerset, celebrated the couple’s tale of true love.
Alan, 78, said: “It might sound silly but it was just meant to be.
“We obviously knew Ian when they were courting. He was a tear away like they all are at that age but he was a good lad. He had to go with his parents to Australia, and we thought that was the end of it.
The father was worried for Carolyn’s gamble but realised they were adults and could take their own risks.
“I warned Carolyn that he might be a little, fat, bald man by now, because it was 35 years ago. But they recognised each other and that was it.
“It was almost as if it was all meant to happen. I suppose it was fate.”
Her sister Joanne, 49, who works in retail, said: “She is the most lucky woman alive!”