I was recently contacted by Mrs Lesley Snape who had a fascinating story to tell.

Now 84 years of age and living in South Yorkshire, her roots are firmly in Chesham, although it has taken most of her life to prove her biological father was Albert Edward Channer, a carpenter who lived at 29 Latimer Rd, Chesham.

Born in 1937 the man she thought was her father, Richard Palin, died when she was not quite three years old. Her mother remarried in 1941 to a Richard Tomlins. He was a sadistic and cruel stepfather, so her childhood was not a happy one. In January 1953 at the age of 15, she started work as an office junior at William Hill’s offices in Piccadilly. Shortly after starting they asked for sight of her birth certificate. When she asked her mother for it, she was told that it had been destroyed during the war. Upon informing Wm. Hills of this, they sent her round to Somerset House to obtain a copy.

With the help of officers there, she then discovered that her mother had managed to register her birth twice. Once as Lesley Mollie Palin, but a second time as Lesley Mollie Channer, and in both cases her mother gave her maiden name as Melville.. How she had managed to do that the staff at Somerset House had no idea, but to this day Mrs Snape’s birth is still registered with both names.. To discover this was a great shock to her, particularly the certificate with the surname Channer, a surname she had never come across before. When confronted with this information her mother flew into a rage and said “if you want to know the truth, go to 29 Latimer Road in Chesham”.

Here she met Albert E Channer, who told her he knew she was his daughter, and always expected she would call one day. He explained he had married her mother Mabel (who was always known as Peggy) Melville at St Mary’s in Chesham on August 1,1929. Mabel’s father was the landlord of the Kings Arms in Germain Street, where they lived after their marriage. In July 1930 their first child Gordon was born in the pub. Shortly afterwards Mabel’s father, Mrs Snape’s grandfather Robert Melville, died and the family including her grandmother May had to leave the pub. They moved to 29 Latimer Road.

Her grandmother then obtained a part-time job to help out the family finances. She worked as a cleaner for Richard Palin, who was the manager of the boot and shoe-shop Freeman Hardy and Willis (FHW) in the Broadway, Chesham. He was a widower who rented the flat over the shop. He retired in 1936 and had to leave the flat in December as FHW wanted it for the new manager who was starting in the New Year. Her parents then took Richard Palin in as a paying lodger.

Sometime in February 1937 her father said he came home from work early and found Mr. Palin and his wife in a compromising situation, whereby he kicked them both out, even though he knew her mother was already two months pregnant with his child. ( I.e. Mrs Snape). He filed for divorce in October 1938, which was made absolute on May 1,1939. Divorces were rare in those days, so this caused quite a stir in the town. Her father said that his main concern at the time was just gaining custody of his son Gordon, who had been just seven when all this erupted.

Mrs Snape’s mother Mabel had managed to convince Richard Palin that the child she had been carrying was his, even claiming she was a premature baby when she made her entry into this world.

So for nearly the first three years of her life Mrs Snape thought that her father was Richard Palin. He bought a tobacconists shop in Feltham Rd, Ashford and he and Mabel married in 1939, shortly after the divorce. Palin died in May 1940 aged 69, forty years older than her mother.

In all the subsequent meetings between Mrs Snape and the man she now knew to be her biological father, Albert Channer, he never blamed her mother Mabel, telling her that times were hard back then. Richard Palin was quite wealthy, and he said that Mabel saw the chance of a better life.

Albert and Mrs Snape met many times in the 1950s, when he would walk her back to Chesham station along The Backs.

He would hold her hand tightly as the train pulled away, only letting go as the train gathered speed, tears running down his cheeks. The meetings continued through to the 1980s and later he met her husband and their four children on several occasions. He didn’t want Gordon, or his wife (he remarried after the divorce), to know they were meeting, so they would meet in the Rose and Crown in Waterside..

Although Mrs Snape had been accepted as his daughter by Albert Channer, the rest of the Channer family refused to recognise her as such, continuing to consider that she was the daughter of Richard Palin. This has been a constant source of pain to her so earlier this year and encouraged by cousins and friends, she undertook a DNA test. This proved the relationship beyond all doubt.

Mrs Snape says “Finally knowing the truth has been amazing. My birth father had told me many years ago he knew I was his daughter, but there was no way in those days we could prove it.

But, now thanks to science, I know 100% that my birth father was indeed the late Albert Edward Channer from Latimer Road, Chesham, and the result has brought me and my immediate family closure in the autumn of my life. I am such a happy lady now I know the truth, and I am so grateful to the scientists that have made this possible.”

If there are any members of this Channer family who would like to make contact with Mrs Lesley Snape, please contact me deweymiked@aol.com and I will be pleased to arrange that.