Brother and sister who hadn't seen each other for 67 years are reunited after appeal on web
DERBY-BORN Sheilah Woodgate checked her telephone missed calls one summer's evening at her home in Southwold, Suffolk, and saw a Derby number she did not recognise.
Her formative years were spent in Derby and she knew many telephone numbers of friends still in contact with her from those far-off days. But this number was not one of them.
Out of curiosity, she dialled the number and received one of the surprises of her life.
A male voice who answered said: "If you are the daughter of Hazel Mary Willis as you state in your posting on a social networking site, then I have reason to believe that I am your brother."
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Five years earlier, in 2006, Sheilah had posted an online request for information about her birth mother, who had given her away as a baby in the early stages of the Second World War.
She knew from her adopted mother, Hilda Gamble, that she had two brothers and had recorded this fact in her online posting.
Michael's daughter-in-law, Rachel, came across the entry by chance while browsing the internet.
The voice continued: "My name is Michael Tranter and I was born, out of wedlock, to Hazel Mary Willis, a native of Breaston, Derbyshire, and a man called Charles Horner, about whom little is known, who was stationed in Derby during the war.
"This makes me at least your half-brother."
Sheilah had a close friend living in Burton, who she had arranged to visit the following week, and agreed to call on her new-found brother at his home in Chaddesden while she was in the area.
Sheilah spent an enthralling evening with Michael and Pam, his wife of 45 years, discussing their respective lives.
Sheilah had brought up three boys and Michael two boys with noticeable physical resemblances between the five of them.
The story became even more fascinating when it emerged that, as young children, they had unknowingly lived within 400 yards of each other – Michael in Cardigan Street, with his adoptive parents, Bill and Elsie Tranter, and Sheilah in Beaufort Street, with her adoptive mum and dad, Hilda and Bert Gamble.
Also, by a huge coincidence, the adoption forms for each had been finalised on the same day in September 1945 at a court in Long Eaton, quite separately.
Sheilah, born in September 1942, had literally been passed over the garden wall from her home in Regent Street by her mother, Hazel, to a childless neighbour called Hilda for a "trial" adoption.
Michael, born in April 1944, was adopted into the loving Tranter home to be raised as an only child.
DNA tests have since proved that twice-widowed Sheilah and Michael are brother and sister.
Hazel had previously given birth to a son, Terry, while married to Eric Willis in 1937. Michael and Terry had already been reunited as long-lost half-brothers before they knew of Sheilah's existence.
After the annulment of Hazel and Eric's marriage, citing her adultery with Charles Horner, Terry was sent to a series of foster parents and endured an unhappy childhood.
Three-times-married Hazel worked as a housekeeper on a large estate in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, for the last 25 years of her life, having told her employers she was ten years younger than she actually was. She died in November 2004, while still working, one month short of her 90th birthday.
Sheilah is angry at her birth mother for denying her the opportunity of family life with her brothers.
Michael, however, feels that Hazel made the correct decisions having realised she was a woman with few maternal instincts, failing Terry and releasing him to the unhappiness of foster homes. She at least spared her later offspring that fate.
Sheilah, who is now retired, and Michael, who, with his two sons, runs Ashbourne Road printing company Tranters, plan to see as much of each other as possible to make up for their lost years.
They have discovered each is a life-long Derby County supporter. Sheilah's adopted mum used to have Rams players lodging with her back in the days when Harry Storer was manager.
They have been to a match together already and plan to go to more when Sheilah is in Derby.