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Paul Welsh - From pen pals in Europe to retired couple in South Africa

Paul Welsh is a Scotsman who left his home at an early age to live in South Africa. He and his wife, Lynn, have been living here for almost 44 years and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. Now retired, they live in Knysna and have listed the extra apartment next to their home on Airbnb

“A colleague at work said: ‘Let’s go to South Africa.’ We were, I think, 22. He and his wife, me and my wife and our, then, little boy. We came, but he didn’t! He left us, and that was 1975. I worked by installing telephone exchanges and that’s what I did to start with. It was what I was doing in the UK and it was what I came to here to do.

“We stayed for three and a half years, until our son was 5 and ready for school in Brighton. We stuck it for 10 weeks, jumped on a plane and came back. And that was it, we stayed ever since. It’s the outdoor life, it’s the weather. You’ll never get these kinds of things in Britain.

“I will always be Scottish. It’s about where you’re born, and those early years are the ones that define what you think for the rest of your life. I have a son who lives in Brighton but he regards himself as South African because this is where he spent most of his life growing up. I love it here and I don’t want to leave but I’ll always be a visitor… Because you’ll never know what might happen politically.

paul welsh garden route 3
paul welsh garden route 2

"It’s the outdoor life, it’s the weather. You’ll never get these kinds of things in Britain."

“I used to work for Parliament here. I used to go in and do their telephones. I would go into ministers’ offices and they would quiz me on why I came to South Africa because I was white. When you’re here, you love the country, but that does not mean you have to agree with how they’re going on. When they would ask me things I would say: ‘Well, in Scotland we also have discrimination.’ The discrimination there is religious; I’m catholic and in Scotland, you can’t get a job if you’re catholic.

“I left Glasgow when I was 19 and went to England to court my wife. Lynn was a pen friend at first. My best friend in high school had a pen friend in England for years and I never knew about it. One day he said: ‘This girl wants to write to you.’

“I said: ‘I don’t write.’

“Funny enough, his pen friend was telling Lyn: ‘This chap wants to write to you.’

“In the end we wrote, then we met. I went to England and got married in 1973. I phoned her to meet and that was it. There we go. My friend and his pen friend never, ever met. It worked out for me great! Here we are in South Africa after 44 years.”

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