US pals spend special week in Hillsborough for
by STACEY HEANEY
GROUP of life-long friends paid a special visit to Lisburn last
month as they joined together to celebrate the 20th Anniversary
of their yearly reunions.
The 'Sottile Girls', a group of friends from
the College of Charleston in South Carolina, USA, began their
yearly ritual in 1988, and have spent a week of each year since
that meeting in various locations across the USA.
This year, however, they decided to spend
time with one member of the group, Lorna Sawyer, an adopted
Sottile Girl', in her Hillsborough home.
The girls - Ruth Anderson, Rachel Bowling,
Peggy Bridges, Judith Lamond, Sarah Gainey and Franta Broulik,
visited a variety of sites around the country, including the
Ulster American Folk Park, the Giants Causeway, Belfast - where
they met the US Consul General Susan Elliott, and the Mourne
Mountains and Silent Valley.
They also made sure they stopped off for a
day in Lisburn where they spent the morning in the Mayor's
Parlour with Mayor, Councillor Ronnie Crawford.
Despite the demands of careers, husbands and
children, the ladies make sure they set aside one week of every
year to meet up with each other in a different location, where
they can be "girls again."
They explained: "We are all college chums
from the College of Charleston, South Carolina. We lived in a
Victorian Mansion, which was the girls' dormitory, from
1962-1969. It was called Sottile House which is why we are known
as the Sottile Girls."
Lorna commented: "I was a young bride when I
moved there with my husband, who was a professor at the College,
and I met Rachel when I was first there."
Rachel added: "I was working there after
graduation and we became firm friends and we still are 38 years
Their first annual gathering was in Sidle,
Louisiana, near New Orleans. The fun-loving ladies explained:
"We painted the town red. We were the first hurricane to hit New
They added: "Every year we leave our families
and our jobs behind and be girls again, there is one week set in
stone that we have to ourselves with no responsibilities." The
visit to Lisburn proved to be a special one as they visited the
Island Civic Centre, the Linen Museum and boosted the local
economy with plenty of shopping. "We love Lisburn,' Rachel
commented, "and we love Northern Ireland, there's such a good
"Lisburn is vibrant, it has such beautiful
store fronts. The flowers are gorgeous, the triple baskets along
the streets are beautiful," said Peggy.
Whilst Franta added, "The friendliness of the
people and their sense of humour is fantastic, they have a
wonderful wit, it's just so like a pixie or a leprechaun!"
The ladies spent a week of sightseeing,
shopping and catching up with one another during their time in
Hillsborough, and vowed to return to Northern Ireland on another
of their annual reunions. "We will definitely be back again to
see all the things that we have missed. The moment we saw the
country from the air we were enchanted with it, you can't do
justice to the North in a week," they concluded
ABOVE: The group of friends celebrated their 20th reunion
with a special visit to the Mayor's Parlour recently. From left
to right are: Back row: Ruth Anderson, Rachel Bowling, Judith
Lamonde and Peggy Bridges. Front row: Sarah L. Gainey, Lisburn
Mayor, Councillor Ronnie Crawford, Franta Broulik and Lorna
Sawyer. US3908- 127A0