FAMILY AFFAIR: Reuniting in Warwick are (from left) Peter, Graham, Dawn, Sharon and John Gillam.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Reuniting in Warwick are (from left) Peter, Graham, Dawn, Sharon and John Gillam. Sophie Lester

Family spans oceans for Christmas proving blood is thicker

A DYING family name is a rare reason for a holiday, but for the Gillams it is a reason to return to distant family on the Southern Downs.

Sharon and Peter Gillam live just outside of Bath in south-west England and share a common ancestor with Warwick Horticultural Society president Graham Gillam who hosted them for morning tea on Wednesday.

Until the 1980s, Mr and Mrs Gillam thought their son was the last of their name until they discovered John Gillam, a distant cousin of Graham who lives in Brisbane.

"It was pure chance - we were passing by what my father told me was the village the Gillams came from and we went into the church," Mr Gillam said.

"We found the church secretary and told him we were looking for family graves and he said he had something to show us.

"He showed us the visitors' book with John's address, we wrote him a letter and he sent back a detailed family tree and the rest they say is history."

Mr and Mrs Gillam had learnt during the 1850s that Charles Gillam, brother-in-law to a former owner of the Criterion Hotel, had settled in the Clifton-Allora area.

His brother William went to Brisbane, while Peter's family stayed in England.

"The family brought out all their trades when they settled here - carpentry, wheel smithing and agriculture - and helped to develop the area," Mr Gillam said.

"Sharon and I first came in 1988 to visit where the Gillams first settled.

"We also came out in October 2003 for a big family reunion in Allora and it's brilliant seeing everyone and catching up again.

"John put us in touch with an even more direct relative and as we were getting ready to meet him we learnt he had died, so now if there's any chance to do something with the family here we do it."



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