How we met: ‘I was terrified my parents would find out I’d been intimate with another girl’

Lucy and Hen Staveley-Brown, both 53, met at school in 1979 at a time when same-sex relationships were considered taboo. Years later they reunited and now live together in Devon

Lucy Campbell was 11 years old when her parents sent her to an independent Catholic school near their home in North Devon. It was during the entrance exam that Hen Staveley-Brown caught her eye for the first time. “She was one of the least girly girls,” remembers Lucy. “A tomboy, like me.” When the pair started school in September 1979, they soon became good friends. “Lucy lived three miles from me and we were always round at each other’s houses or going out together,” says Hen. “There was definitely a connection there that developed into something else later on.” Lucy says they were “unhappy teenagers” who were “a bit wild and often in trouble”.

In 1983, the girls went on a Duke of Edinburgh trip with their classmates. They spent the night together in a tent after getting drunk, and rumours spread quickly. “Everyone knew and I was terrified my parents would find out I’d been intimate with another girl,” says Lucy. At the time, same sex relationships were pretty much unheard of, especially at a Catholic school in rural Devon. In private, the pair continued to have a stormy relationship with frequent fallouts, until they left school in 1984. “Our school shut down because it was failing and we lost touch with each other,” says Lucy. “I went off to college for a while and then later went to London to work as a nurse. I wanted to forget about it all and just blend in.” Hen joined the police and moved to Bristol. “It was a shock for some, because I think the nuns always thought I’d end up in jail,” she says, laughing.

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