Fiona Chesterton: Secrets never to be told: an investigative journey from Edwardian Cambridge to modern Vancouver

Speaker: Fiona Chesterton

Fiona had a long career, mainly at the BBC and Channel 4, as a journalist, Television News Editor, TV Producer and Commissioning Editor. She was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Television Society for services to broadcasting in 2008. Since moving to Cambridge in 2015, she has pursued her passions for family history and for writing. She has enjoyed combining her journalistic skills with her grounding in history at University. (She graduated from Lady Margaret Hall Oxford with a BA Hons in Modern History). Her research led to her first book SECRETS NEVER TO BE TOLD published in 2021.

Synopsis: When Fiona Chesterton received a windfall inheritance from a mystery Canadian man, it was the start of a life-changing investigation on both sides of the Atlantic. She uncovered a remarkable tale of a ‘surplus woman’, an illegitimate child of a farmer’s daughter, born and brought up in Cambridge for a life of domestic service and who emigrated to British Columbia on her own in 1912. Fiona discovered how the woman she now calls Cousin Jessie came to live for nearly fifty years in a shack in a rural township. A boy called William with no known father was her sole companion. Fiona will tell how Jessie and William’s story made her reflect on her own life. She too was born illegitimate in the 1950s with severe repercussions for her mother. She will also share new revelations which have emerged only in the last year about Jessie and William – and her own childhood.

There will be an opportunity to buy Fiona’s book Secrets Never To Be Told at the lecture.


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Event information


28 Feb 2024


2:15 pm


Wednesday Lecture - online and U3AC, Pink room. Places for in person attendance must be pre-booked. Bookings open from 7 days before the lecture.