NEW family links are being uncovered in Sherrie Hewson’s search for her hidden Sunderland roots.
The actress, who is currently starring as the Fairy Godmother in the Sunderland Empire’s pantomime Cinderella, held a coffee morning at the famous theatre yesterday to meet relatives of her native Wearside father Ronald Hutchinson.
She chatted to Debbie Perez-Reynolds, 49, her daughters Gabriella Walton, 18, and Natalia Walton, 15, and Billy Pearn, 69, of Hylton Castle, who are all related to her through her father’s family tree.
Debbie, of Fulwell, showed the Benidorm actress photographs of Ronald with her own father Billy Reynolds, who lived in Hylton Castle Road, and died in 2009 aged 76.
The pair were said to be close, and Debbie also showed grandmother-of-two Sherrie a letter from Ronald to Billy – which hinted at a dark secret behind his move away from Wearside.
Sherrie said: “He wrote words to the effect of ‘I love you all and I will explain to you one day why I can’t come back’.
“It’s still a mystery why he left Sunderland and never came back, he loved his hometown more than anywhere else in the world.”
Billy Pearn, 69, of Hylton Castle, shares the same great-grandparents as Sherrie – William and Mary Pearn, who lived in Castletown – as their parents were cousins.
The father-of-two is married to Joan, 70, who also chatted to Debbie about mutual relatives.
He said: “It’s very interesting. It’s nice, this meeting never would have come to fruition in the past. I have never met any of these people before, and if Sherrie gives me her address, I will send her a few letters.”
Debbie and Sherrie, who have been in contact for the past few months as the Loose Woman panelist got the search for her family underway, have bonded over their bloodlines, and said they will keep in touch as Sherrie’s search progresses.
Debbie, who has always known of her connection to the TV star, said it is a pleasure getting to know her.
She said: “It has been lovely to meet her. We’ve been talking for a few months now.
“I knew a little bit about our family, but I’ve got lots of family who I have never met so it is interesting.”
Sherrie, who said it has been an emotional experience being in Sunderland and researching her roots, said she feels a weight has been lifted now she has started to make connections.
She said: “I felt very down the first few days I was here and at first I thought it was because I was away from my family, but then I realised it was because I’m in this place which my dad loved more than anywhere else in the world and he’s not here.
“I was lonelier than I have ever been, but it has absolutely been worth it.
“In the last two days my heart has lightened a little and it feels so worth it doing this, getting to know Debbie and Billy and people.”
The former Emmerdale and Coronation Street star added that the search will keep her on Wearside for a while after the pantomime finishes on January 5.
Sherrie said: “I am free every morning next week so I am going to go out in the car and maybe visit Debbie, and go to my grandmother’s house, and visit Beamish.
“The Pearns were apparently quite an important family in North East history, so I’m going to keep looking back into that.
“My dad always said this place has the best houses – and he was right. It’s the best audiences I can remember in pantomime.-“It has been a very emotional time for me, but I know he is here with me now.”