The Brit with the beautiful name John Rainbow lives in Wylam, north-east England. The 60-year-old and his wife lead a tranquil life, which is why an unusual event recently surprised him: the couple received a letter. The address on the envelope was correct, but the addressee was not. On closer inspection, it quickly became clear why not.
As Rainbow reported to the BBC, the letter was between the regular mail and he didn't think anything of it at first. On closer inspection, however, he noticed the unknown name on the envelope. "Jesus, that's a bit strange," he thought. He consulted with his wife, and they both thought they remembered that the addressee was a previous owner of their home. "They must have left here 15 or 20 years ago," says John Rainbow.
He decided to open the letter and was then really amazed: The letter writer had noted the date on which the letter was written in the upper right corner: August 3, 1995. Almost 30 years ago. The letter was sent from a farmer in Somerset, on the other side of the country. The former owner of the house probably started the contact: Valerie Jarvis-Read wrote a letter to the farmer and asked him whether the two families were distantly related. At that time she had probably discovered the hobby of genealogical research for herself.
The man replied happily, "I was pleased to receive your letter and to hear about your extensive family. So I thought I'd better tell you about mine as well." Family stories and childhood memories follow. John Rainbow reports how strange it was to know next to nothing about someone who had previously lived in the same house as him. However, he and his wife began investigating. Unfortunately, Valerie had already died, apparently without descendants, and the farmer was no longer alive either. However, he has a son who the Rainbows made contact with.
"I think Valerie must have written us a long letter because she thought we might be related for a few generations. My father took great pleasure in learning all about her family and wanted to tell her about his own. This I think that was my father's reply. The tragedy is that the letter never reached her," Richard Daniel told the BBC.
But why did the letter take almost 30 years to reach its destination – unfortunately too late? That remains unclear at the moment, because even the British Post Office is at a loss: "Cases like this happen very rarely, and we're not sure what the cause was in this case," says a spokesman for the Royal Mail. "We are very sorry if this caused any problems."