IT’S not every day that you discover you’re related to a genius who has made the world laugh for the last 100 years.
But that’s been the extremely pleasant experience of 88-year-old Jean Hewitt from Dawlish since she discovered the great Charlie Chaplin was her cousin.
Family investigations have revealed her dim and distant connection with the cheeky chap and his swinging stick.
Biographies of the great clown are vague about his origins, but delving by Jean’s family into their ancestry suggests he may have been born in a gipsy caravan at a well-established Romany site in Smethwick, Birmingham, known as The Black Patch.
Most accounts reveal that Chaplin, who died aged 88 in Switzerland in 1977, started his life in poverty-stricken Walworth in south east London. His birth certificate has never been found.
It’s thought his parents may have left Birmingham for the capital when he was aged just two. Details of his more ‘exotic’ past first started to emerge in 2011 in a letter found hidden and locked away in Chaplin’s Swiss home.
Both Jean’s family and Chaplin’s have a link to the King and Queen of the Gipsies at the turn of the last century.
Widow Jean, who lives in Brunel Court, recently attended a family reunion garden party which included Chaplin’s 71-year-old actor son Michael, who featured in the opening scene of his dad’s famous 1952 movie, Limelight.
‘He was lovely. He’s a bit like his dad,’ said Jean who revealed that Limelight was her favourite Chaplin film.
She admits she is thrilled with her blood link to one of the funniest men who ever lived.
‘I think it’s just lovely. It did come as a shock, but a good one. Charlie Chaplin was so clever. The gipsy connection is really something,’ said Jean who moved from the Midlands to Dawlish in the mid ’90s.
She added that her mother never knew of the family’s famous tie to the legendary figure of Hollywood.
‘Well, she never mentioned it,’ said Jean.