PANTO star Sherrie Hewson has unearthed family secrets as she traces her Mackem roots.
In between starring in Cinderella at the Sunderland Empire, Sherrie is spending her time on Wearside researching her family tree.
With the help of Julie Lawrence, local studies manager at Sunderland City Library, Sherrie – whose late father Ron Hutchinson was born in Sunderland – has been able to piece together branches of her family tree that have remained a secret for decades.
Sherrie said: “The reason I came to Sunderland is because of my father, he loved Sunderland but he wasn’t great at keeping in touch with family.
“We’ve discovered from birth certificates that my father wasn’t a Hutchinson at all. It seems he was born out of wedlock and was a Porter.
“All these years I’ve thought I was a Hutchinson, Hewson is my stage name, but I’m not, I’m a Porter.”
“I just hope I’m not related to Janet Street Porter,” quipped the Loose Women panellist.
The Benidorm actress, who is starring as the Fairy Godmother until January 5, said she will spend the remainder of her time here trying to find more answers as to who her Mackem ancestors were.
Ronald Hutchinson was born in Sunderland on October 21, 1918, to Catherine Pearn. He was given the surname of her then partner, John Hutchinson, and he was raised in homes in Castletown.
“Dad moved away when he was about 16, but we don’t know why, maybe it was because of his dad,” she explained. “At that time you would be ostracised for having a child out of wedlock. Whatever happened it would have had to be kept quiet, it was a different time then.”
Julie said: “We’ve found records of where Sherrie’s grandparents lived in Castletown, such as in Elizabeth Street and Castle Street South, and those houses are still there.
“We’ve also discovered that Sherrie has cousins who are still alive, living in Wales and New Zealand.”
Sherrie said: “I wish dad was still here, I miss him so much and now I’m in his area. Neither my brother nor I know why dad didn’t pursue this, but I want to find out who his father was for him.”
Speaking about appearing on stage at the Sunderland Empire, she said: “Dad always said that the best audiences were in Sunderland and he was right. I’ve been doing pantomime for 12 years now and these are the best audiences I’ve played to.
“Sunderland should be proud of its theatre, I think it’s the best in the country, it’s so beautiful.
“I know the Empire stopped doing pantomimes for a couple years but I don’t think it should ever do that again, it’s such a great tradition. I feel proud to be part of this show.”