TWO friends who lost contact 50 years ago have been reunited thanks to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph.

And they only found out about each other as they celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries on the same day.

Irene Taylor, 70, who lives in Barley Bank Street, Darwen, with her husband Raymond, 75, was friends with Joan Halliwell, 70, when they were youngsters in the 1950s. They lost contact after Joan moved away in 1951 and have not seen each other since.

When Lancashire Evening Telegraph photographer Clive Lawrence told Joan he had just taken photographs for another Darwen golden wedding, she asked who it was.

Clive said: "Although the maiden names had changed, she realised who it was."

Joan, of Bolton Road, met her husband, Ken when they were both working together at Crown paints. Joan was a telephonist at the Hollins Road site and Ken was a sales representative.

Joan said: "We were married in 1951 at Redearth Road Methodist's Church. Ken's job involved a lot of travelling and we moved all over the country, which meant I lost contact with Irene."

After their marriage, Ken and Joan moved from Darwen to Kiddeminster, then to Birkenhead, then on to Mynydd in North Wales before returning to Darwen 30 years ago.

"When the photographer told me that he had another golden wedding in Darwen this weekend and that the woman's name was Irene, I couldn't believe it.

"My last contact with Irene was when I was 18, a long time ago. I didn't know that they were married at the same time as us, so it was a very nice surprise to find out."

"It was very nice to catch up with her; we had a lot to talk about."

So what has 50 years of married life been like for Ken and Joan? "I black his eye occasionally, but apart from that it's been very nice", Joan said.

Irene Taylor was knocked off her feet by husband Raymond at the old rollerskating rink in Darwen.

She said: "The rink isn't there any more but I used to go regularly with my friends.

"I wasn't very good, but Raymond, who was just out of the Navy, was an expert. I was just trundling along when he knocked me over, he bent over to pick me up and that is how we met."

Irene said: "We still feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy our life with family and friends."

"Joan and I lost touch because she moved away with Ken. I didn't even know that she had married in Darwen, until the photographer told us.

"When he said the name was Halliwell I put two and two together."

Joan and Ken celebrated at a party for family and friends, including their three sons, seven grandchildren and one granddaughter.

Irene and Raymond had a family party and will be going to Tenerife later in the year.