A DURHAM police officer helped some lost Australian tourists locate part of their family tree ... and discovered an unexpected link to his Antipodean guests.
Bill Whykes and his wife Pat had travelled to the UK and Ireland for a six-week holiday as part of their 40th wedding anniversary.
He was also keen to trace his family roots, as many of his ancestors hail from Durham, Cornwall and Ireland.
Bill’s maternal great-grandparents, Robert Bates and Isabella Sarah Bramwell, were married in St Mary’s Church in Heworth, Gateshead, in October 1873.
Isabella was christened in the same church and her parents were also married at St Mary’s in 1844.
The current vicar at St Mary’s had invited Bill and Pat to attend a Sunday morning communion service during their visit. And so, after completing their 22-day tour, they left London and headed to the North East.
But instead of travelling to Gateshead, the couple mistakenly thought that as St Mary’s is administered by the diocese of Durham, Heworth must be a suburb of, or attached to, Durham itself.
So when they arrived in the cathedral city and asked for directions, no one was able to help them.
“Eventually, after three laps of the city we located the police station. By this time it was almost 5pm and I was wondering if this place called Heworth actually existed,” said Bill, 66.
“A policeman came to reception and I told him I was a lost Aussie trying to find Heworth. I asked if he knew where it was and he confirmed he did.”
The policeman in question was PC Jon Leask, 38, a response officer with six years’ service.
“I then asked if he knew St Mary’s and he replied with a grin that his parents were married in the church. He then drew me a diagram with directions and included his name, police number and phone details, saying if we got lost on the way he would come and find us,” a grateful Bill said.