Theatre fans finds out long lost brother was Kings Theatre manager

Driftwood Festival organiser Paul Cobb  Picture: Malcolm Wells (142242-6774C)

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AS a young trainee nurse in Portsmouth Margaret Crouch loved nothing better than a night in the theatre.

It was a perk of the job. If she had done well and pleased matron, complimentary tickets for the Kings Theatre, Southsea, were up for grabs.

She went dozens of times and now she has returned to see the old building in all its restored grandeur.

But for wheelchair-bound Margaret, 85, the jaunt down memory lane was a poignant and emotion-charged journey.

For what she has only just discovered is that for several years while she was in the audience, a brother she never knew existed was managing the Kings.

His name was Bill Ovens and he was general manager of the Albert Road theatre from 1952 until July 1957.

Margaret (nee Ayles) said: ‘It’s a wonderful but very sad day, to come back here knowing that he was almost certainly in this building while I was here.

‘It’s taken 85 years to find out I had a brother who I was so close to physically but never realised existed.’

Margaret was born in Rosetta Road, Milton, Portsmouth, and was fostered when very young. What she never knew was that Bill had already been adopted by the time she was born. He was christened Donald.

She is candid and also vague about her family background. ‘Put it this way,’ she said, ‘my father was not a good man. There were three boys and two girls that I knew about. How many others there were, God only knows.’

Her shock discovery came out of the blue when a package arrived at her home in Salisbury from Australia.

It was from Bill’s widow Pearl, whose maiden name was Gooch.

Inside was a small album containing his birth certificate, their wedding photograph, pictures of her brother and some of their three daughters, Margaret’s newly-acquired nieces, Diane, Betty and Marlene.

Bill died in 1966, but Pearl wrote a note to Margaret describing her brother. It said: ‘He was diligent, quietly-spoken, courteous and had a quirky sense of humour.’

And there was also a note from Diane which read: ‘To Aunty Margaret, to help make up for the missed years of memories and love of your brother Donald.’

It was Diane who had tracked down Margaret while researching her family history.

With tears welling in her eyes, Margaret added: ‘I always knew there was something I didn’t know about. I could never put my finger on it and now I’ve been proved right.

‘I suppose I feel grief that I was literally so close to my brother and now I shall never know him.’