FRIENDSHIPS forged at a York chocolate factory are still going strong decades down the line – thanks to 45-year-old pact.

Workmates in the central calculating section at the Rowntree factory were celebrating the 25th birthday of their friend Audrey Scott on February 12, 1969, when they made a pledge to meet again on the same day in 1994 to mark her 50th birthday.

The meeting place was to be the steps of York Minster – “the only place we knew would still be there”.

The promise was kept, and the ex-comptometer operators have since met twice a year and been on holidays to Barcelona, Bruges, Paris and Ghent, and their next trip will be to Budapest in April.

But before then, they celebrated Audrey’s 70th birthday by meeting outside the Minster again on February 12, also enjoying a catch-up at Wilde’s wine bar.

One of the group, Sandra Taylor – Sandra Walker in her Rowntree days – said: “The first time we did it in 1994, nobody knew how many of us would turn up, but 11 of us met as planned and it has just gone from there.”

Sandra, who now lives in Manchester, said: “We talk about people from our days at Rowntree’s who we’ve seen, what we’ve been doing, our families. It’s gone from marriages to children to our kids getting married and, recently, it’s been grandchildren – the seven of us who always meet have 22 grandchildren between us now.

"In 1969, when we first arranged to meet 25 years later, it seemed ages away and we were all laughing and visualising what we would be like then. Most of us hadn’t seen each other in between. We love meeting up and we’ll keep doing it for as long as we can.”