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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Cumbrian OAP meets sister he never knew he had

A Carlisle pensioner who never knew he had a sister for 66 years has met her for the first time.

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Emotional time: Ashlee Foster, now living in Canada, finally meets her brother Allan Elliott, centre, in Carlisle, flanked by her husband Doug and Allan’s wife Margaret

Ashlee Foster, 70, flew all the way from Canada to surprise her brother Allan Elliot, 77.

The pair, who had the same mum, met for the first time in an emotional reunion yesterday at Allan’s son’s flat in John Robert Gardens, Carlisle.

Ashlee found out that she had a brother after talking to one of her mother’s cousins.

She said: “It was a secret that our mum, Madge, had Allan out of wedlock. It was something that wasn’t talked about in those days.

“I asked my mother about it and she sobbed and sobbed. She was almost hysterical but she wouldn’t tell me anything. I didn’t sleep for a couple of days thinking about it.”

Allan’s wife Margaret said: “Eleven years ago the phone rang at 7am. Allan answered it and there was a lady on the other end asking him lots of questions.

“That lady was Ashlee, the sister he never knew he had.”

Allan said: “It was a real shock to find out that I had a sister. I couldn’t believe it. I kept stopping strangers and telling them.”

Ashlee, who lives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, said: “I had been looking for an Allan McCarg but Allan had changed his surname to Elliot. I only started looking for him in 1998 when our mother died.

“In 2000 I found an A Elliot living in Carlisle and wondered if that might be him but it wasn’t until 2001 that I made the call.”

Allan, who used to work at Robertsons bakers and as a railway fireman and soldier, was given to one of his mother’s friends when he was a child.

He grew up at the Tannery in Scotby and on Welsh Road in Harraby – opposite where Ashlee used to visit her Aunty Maggie.

Allan, who used to live in Carlisle but now lives in Appleby, and Ashlee have kept in touch over the last 11 years, phoning each other regularly and more recently the families have been texting, emailing and going on Facebook.

Two of Allan’s sons drove to Manchester Airport yesterday to collect Ashlee and her husband, Doug Martin.

Some of the family knew that Ashlee was flying over but they kept it a secret from Allan.

Ashlee hid in the bedroom and then came out when Allan was on the balcony.

She said: “I was standing behind him and someone called his name and he turned round. He was just staring at me.”

Allan, who has five sons and two daughters, said: “Everyone was looking at me. I was in shock. I was in floods of tears as I just wasn’t expecting it. It’s a lovely surprise.”

Ashlee, who has lived in Canada for 40 years, is staying in Carlisle for a month and is having a party for friends and family at the Royal Scot in Morton on Saturday.

She said: “My nephew George offered me his flat because it’s wheelchair friendly and we can stay here instead of a hotel.

“It was a long journey because we left home on Friday but it’s worth it to see my brother at long last.

“I didn’t want it to be a family secret anymore.”

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