‘Dream come true’: Irish woman reconnects with P.E.I. host family after 30 years

‘I prayed to God all my life that I would find them,’ says Julie Holland

Julie Holland, left, and Nancy Fullarton, known as Nancy Mawle in 1987, are shown celebrating Nancy’s 16th birthday. (Submitted by Nancy Fullarton)

Julie Holland, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, visited P.E.I. for just four weeks in 1987 and never forgot it.

She took part in a program that brought 12 children from Northern Ireland — six Catholics and six Protestants — to the Island.

Wanting to reconnect with the family that hosted her all those years ago, she reached out to CBC News for help.

It was a long shot that paid off. And quickly, too.

I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve been messaging non-stop all morning and afternoon and I can’t believe it.
— Julie Holland

Holland had only a few details to go on.

She knew the family lived near a mall and near an airport. About the only other concrete detail she had to go on was the host family had two daughters — Nancy and Rebecca.

As it turned out, that’s all she needed.

After CBC published her story Sunday morning, Holland received a response within moments from Nancy Fullarton.

Rebecca, left, and Nancy are sisters in the family that hosted Julie Holland over 30 years ago. (Submitted by Nancy Fullarton)

She was a member of the family Holland had been looking for.

It all happened so quickly that Holland thought it was a hoax.

“I wasn’t sure whether it was true or not, but once she gave me the information and all their Facebook [profiles], I knew right away that it was her,” the woman said.

“I talked about them for years and I really longed to contact them again and now that it’s happened, I think I’m still in shock.”

‘It was like a dream come true’

When Fullarton, who was known to Holland by her maiden name, Mawle, read the story, she recognized Holland’s name and face right away.

“There she was!” Fullarton said with a laugh. She couldn’t believe it.

“She had remembered … almost all of the details of my family right down to the names and where we lived. It clearly meant so much to her so I reached out,” Fullarton said.

And how did the first conversation go after all this time?

“Amazing. Amazing!” Fullarton said. “She was shocked that it was happening and she couldn’t believe she got such a quick response.”

Just like that, old friends were reunited after 30 years. Holland couldn’t be any happier.

“They do remember me and they’re looking to talk to me,” she said. “I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve been messaging non-stop all morning and afternoon and I can’t believe it.”

“It was like a dream come true, it really was … I prayed to God all my life that I would find them, so God’s good.”

Holland, now 43, says her holiday in P.E.I. was one of the best experiences of her life. (Submitted by Julie Holland)

‘Maybe Belfast is just a skip away’

Fullarton and Holland have already urged each other to visit.

Although Holland said she won’t be able to return to the Canada in the near future, Fullarton said her family was already planning a trip to Scotland and France and that the two could soon cross paths again.

“Who knows, in a year or two, you never know we might end up seeing each other again,” she laughed.

“Maybe Belfast is just a skip away on our way there.”

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