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Ex-pats really went to town

PUBLISHED: 18:59 07 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:49 03 March 2010

IT was a real Kiwi-cidence for two Ipswich ex-pats Down Under who discovered by chance after making trip of thousands of miles that they both came from Chantry!

The world did really turn upside down for ex-Chantry High pupils Gill Smith and Julie Waters when they began to exchange small talk at their childrens' kindergarten in the New Zealand capital of Auckland.

IT was a real Kiwi-cidence for two Ipswich ex-pats Down Under who discovered by chance after making trip of thousands of miles that they both came from Chantry!

The world did really turn upside down for ex-Chantry High pupils Gill Smith and Julie Waters when they began to exchange small talk at their childrens' kindergarten in the New Zealand capital of Auckland.

Not only did it soon turn out they both came from Ipswich but that they shared the same school, the same childhood memories and Julie's grandparents even knew of few of Gill's relatives too!

"I just couldn't believe it," said mother-of-three Mrs Smith, 42, whose maiden name was Mills. "I thought my husband had set me up because being a new country your one wish is to meet someone from home. It was unbelievable.

"We still talk about it today at how amazing it is to travel half way around the world and meet someone who just lived a few streets away where I grew up."

Mrs Mills is currently visiting friends and family on a three-month trip to her native town with children Leah, 8, Hamish, 10, and Andrew, 12.

She last visited back in 1984 – a year after her "amazing" chance meeting with Julie Waters. Back in New Zealand the pair have become firm friends, particularly as Mrs Waters lives just 10 minutes away.

"When we meet up now we even put on Ipswich accents," she quipped. "It's really nice."

As Mrs Smith told of her utter astonishment from the home of parents Doreen and Jeff in Merlin Road, she described, now with a complete Kiwi accent, how the pair immediately hurled themselves down memory lane during their chat which started after they noticed each other's then distinctive English accent.

"We were like 'Do you know Bobbit's Hole, the Kingfisher pub, the swing in Stone Lodge Lane'? It was quite something."

Mrs Waters, whose maiden name was Parminter, left for New Zealand aged 12 with the rest of her family. She is three years younger than Mrs Smith but the two overlapped at Chantry High by a year. She told how her grandparents knew some of Mrs Smith's relatives on her mother's side.

Special needs worker Mrs Smith married New Zealander Wayne Smith, a heating engineer ("not the All Blacks rugby coach!") after meeting him in London where she was working as a hotel receptionist.

They married at Christchurch, Tacket Street, in 1982 and set up home in New Zealand a year later.

So what does she miss of the home country? "I miss the pubs – but in New Zealand we do a lot more entertaining at home because there aren't pubs on every corner and it's very much an outdoors kind of country. And the weather is much better."

"But the kids love seeing things like castles because there isn't much history like that in New Zealand."

In between sampling good old Suffolk pubs and showing her children the sights, Mrs Smith is eager to catch up with as many old friends as possible – particularly with Cathy Stiff, an old school friend.

Mrs Smith added that she keeps in touch with her home town by reading copies of the Star sent to her by parents – and looking up the latest news on the Evening Star website.

"I pass on the copies to Julie now, of course," said Mrs Smith. "We both love to hear what's going on."

If you would like to get in touch with Mrs Smith while she enjoys the last few days of her trip, email the Star at james.fraser@ecng.co.uk or call 01473 282386.

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