WHAT a surprise to receive an email from Canada this week!

And with it we have learned the story of a fascinating family whose roots are in Weymouth. It's a story of a woman who opened up her home to house Jewish child refugees in the war and a woman who, ahead of her time, was a footballer while also winning a Weymouth Bathing Beauty contest!

The email was from Gillian Hillidge of Victoria, British Colombia, who used to live in Weymouth but moved to Canada with her family in 1954. Gillian wanted to let us know that she recognised a familiar face in a photo we published of a charabanc in Weymouth.

The photo was of Gillian's mum Irene Higgins Hillidge, who was born in 1913.

She was enjoying a charabanc ride while on holiday in Weymouth. The exact year isn't known but Gillian thinks it must have been before 1927. Irene would have been between 14 and 16 then.

The people in the photo are: left, Nell Higgins (Gillian's great aunt by marriage), Nelsie Higgins Watson (Gillian's aunt who was born in 1917), Vera Higgins Pawson (Gillian's aunt who sadly passed away in 1950 in Weymouth and was born in 1919), Gillian's nan Jenny Lewis Higgins, and her mum Irene Higgins Hillidge, who was born in 1913.

Gillian's nan, mum and sisters moved to Weymouth at some time between 1936 and 1938.

She writes: "Nan rented a beautiful Victorian home on Kirtleton Avenue, No 32. The name on the gate was 'Ronan' but I recall Nan saying the first letters had fallen off and the name is 'Kilronan'.

"Kirtleton was a beautiful tree-lined avenue back then and up until we immigrated in 1954."

After Gillian's mum and dad were married they stayed for a while at 32 Kirtleton Avenue.

"Dad felt obliged to be the breadwinner and they moved to rooms on Walpole St opposite Avenue Road, and fortunately they managed to grab 2 Charles Street in the Park District by 1942, where we lived until 1954."

Gillian's nan Jenny Lewis Higgins was planning on opening up a B&B at 32 Kirtleton Avenue but the Second World War broke out.

Gillian writes: "Nan opened her house to child refugees whom I was told were Jewish children brought from Europe. "They stayed with my nan until they were posted to other permanent homes in England. This is the story I heard so I cannot vouch for the details but I do have copy of the Queen’s thank you note to my nan."

We were also delighted to see a couple of photos of Weymouth Ladies Football Team from 1944 featuring Gillian's auntie Stella. But sport wasn't her only talent, Gillian tells us.

"Here's a photo of Stella Higgins, she missed out of the charabanc tour but also won the Weymouth Bathing Beauty contest that set a few boys' hearts beating!"

When Gillian visited the UK in 2015 and came to Weymouth she saw the women footballers' photo hanging in the Nothe Fort museum.

The only family members still alive, Gillian tells us, are herself in Victoria BC, her sister in Markham, Ontario and her cousin in Kelowna, BC. Stella's daughter lives in Miami, Florida.

*Thanks so much to Gillian for this fascinating insight into her extraordinary family. If you'd like to share old family photos and tell us about your relatives, get in touch using the details below.