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Saturday, 29 July, 2000, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Rare reunion for island Castaways
Ben Fogle and mother
Castaway Ben Fogle is reunited with mother Julie
A group of people who volunteered to live on a remote Scottish island for the BBC series Castaways have been reunited with their families and friends.

There were emotional scenes as the 34 volunteers met up with their loved ones for the first time in seven months.

The BBC has been documenting the exploits of the group, who have pledged to spend a year on the island of Taransay.

It's like Christmas and a birthday all together.

Julie Lowe
About 40 relatives took a short boat trip from the neighbouring island of Harris to be with them.

Castaway Julie Lowe, 36, who greeted her mother Joy, from Guildford, Surrey, said: "It's wonderful seeing my mum - it's like Christmas and a birthday all together."

Miss Lowe, who was made redundant from a job in the City of London before becoming a Castaway, added: "Looking back on it, I'm probably the last person who is likely to become a Castaway and I miss my friends and family a lot.

"Most of my friends were just around the corner but now they are so far away."

Miss Lowe was one of four Castaways who lost personal possessions they had carefully chosen for the year when a container carrying supplies fell into the sea during an airlift.

Her mother said it was difficult to watch the distress this caused her daughter on the television without being able to contact her.

Patricia Prater
Patricia Prater with daughter Joanna and dog Floozie
She said: "When I watched her lose all her belongings I cried but I was also proud of her when she said that at least nobody had died.

"It was a relief when I got here because I did not know how she would react to this situation. But I was surprised how well she has done."

Patricia Prater, 37, became a Castaway volunteer with her daughter Jodene, 11, and son Michael, nine.

Her other daughter, 14-year-old Joanna, decided to stay at home with her grandmother so that she could concentrate on her school work - but she visited her mother on the island.

Mrs Prater said: "It's yet to sink in that she's here. I'll never leave her again.

"We had all originally planned to come but Joanna said she didn't want to come with us.

It's totally different from what I imagined it would be. It looks nice - but I've only been here for an hour

Joanna Prater
"I said we couldn't do it without her if she wasn't going to come but she told us to go ahead."

Joanna said: "It's totally different from what I imagined it would be. It looks nice - but I've only been here for an hour."

Mrs Prater hit the headlines when her dog Fran had puppies, five of which were taken off the island, leaving only Floozie with the Castaways.

She said: "There was a lot of people who were anti dogs and used to come down hard on them.

"There was tears in my eyes when I had to give them away and I could hardly speak after they left - it was really hard to see them go."

Mike Laird and family
Tears as Mike Laird greets his sister Ashley and her daughter Llona
The Castaways gave signs that they were getting over the early difficulties which saw volunteers Ray Bowyer and Ron Copsey leave the island.

Ben Fogle, a 26-year-old film editor, who was reunited with his mother Julie Foster, 49, said: "We're very near self-sufficient.

"We kill our own animals, which I've helped with - it's been the hardest thing for me to do personally.

"I was thinking the other day what I really wanted to do is to bake bread and shear sheep, which I've done."

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