John met relatives for first time a century on

John Skelton's New Zealand relatives.
John Skelton's New Zealand relatives.

AN 88-year-old travelled to New Zealand to be introduced to the 22 grandchildren and great-grandchildren of his aunt who died in 1933.

John Skelton, of Chapel Street, Highfield, lost touch with that side of his family after she committed suicide by jumping from the nation’s Victoria Bridge in Hamilton.

John Skelton of Hemel Hempstead went to New Zealand to meet relatives.

John Skelton of Hemel Hempstead went to New Zealand to meet relatives.

He was about eight years old when he heard the sad news about Gladys Collins, 28.

She had emigrated to New Zealand in 1924 to marry lover Reg, who went there with his family in 1922 to set up a bakers and confectionery firm.

John said: “They had five children, but Gladys was always desperately homesick.

“I had previously lived in the same house as Gladys with my mother, grandmother and grandfather. Gladys was the eldest daughter in her family.

“My grandad was never the same after he heard. From then on, the whole thing was never, ever spoken about.

“It was not until two or three years ago that I knew her name was Gladys Collins – I had always been trying to find Gladys Wood.”

A nephew of John’s had found an old photo of Gladys and her family with their names on the back.

It was then that he realised her surname changed when she married Reg in 1925.

Before that, he’d known she got married – but not who to.

John phoned granddaughter Gemma Fellowes, 31, who moved to New Zealand two-and-a-half years ago to be with a partner she’d met in the UK.

She scoured public records to find Gladys’ descendants, who he met with daughter Jackie Fellowes, 57, last month.

John said: “It was electric. They were all so excited – as were we. We knew from our research more about their family than they did.”

His research was aided by son Martin, 66, and Katharine Airstone-Thompson, 14.