Sisters Gail Webster, left, and Vilma McIntosh have plenty of catching up to do after 37 years apart. Mrs Webster and her partner, Fred, are visiting Mrs McIntosh in Mackay.
Sisters Gail Webster, left, and Vilma McIntosh have plenty of catching up to do after 37 years apart. Mrs Webster and her partner, Fred, are visiting Mrs McIntosh in Mackay. Rachel Urquhart

Joyous reunion after 37 years apart

IT'S been almost 40 years since sisters Vilma McIntosh and Gail Webster last spoke.

But it was as though no time had passed at all as they showered each other with hugs and kisses when they were finally reunited in Mackay recently.

Mrs McIntosh, 80, said she got the shock of her life when her long-lost sister turned up on her doorstep after 37 years apart.

“All of a sudden I got a knock on my door and there she was – she hasn't shut up since,” she joked.

Vilma and Gail Roberts were two of four children born in Gosford, New South Wales.

Although there was a 14-year age gap, they were close growing up, until Vilma left home.

“When I was 18 I hitchhiked with a friend around Australia and we got to Melbourne, where I met my husband,” Mrs McIntosh said.

“I married a sailor and he worked at the Snowy Mountains and then we travelled to Mount Isa and Birdsville and Cunna- mulla,”

“I've worked in every hotel in the west including Longreach and Barcaldine.

“During that time I lost contact with my family and I didn't know my sister's married name.”

While Vilma and her husband, Alan, were travelling across the country with their four children, Gail and her partner, Fred, were raising seven children in Temora, NSW, where they lived for 40 years.

“We would get a lead and send a letter but they would have already moved on – they've lived in some funny places,” Mrs Webster said.

When their mother died, the sisters saw each other briefly but a reunion was not on the cards.

“We couldn't stay [at the funeral], we had four children and in those days you had to get straight back to work,” Mrs McIntosh said.

But Gail's pursuit didn't end there.

“I tried to find her again through That's Life Magazine and the Find my Family show on TV but had no luck,” Mrs Webster said. “I didn't know whether I would find her dead or alive but this was my dream – to find my sister.”

Mrs Webster finally found Vilma – 37 years later – through Fred's brother, who used an Ancestry website.

“I didn't believe I would find her; I was over the moon,” Mrs Webster said.

The family has been catching up on news of Vilma's four children, 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren and Gail's seven children, 15 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

And despite four decades apart, the reunion has brought them closer together.

“From now on we will stay in touch,” Mrs McIntosh said.



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