AS the illegitimate daughter of a Canadian soldier based in the Highlands during World War II, it has taken a lifetime’s search for Rosie Nixon to track down her father.
The Inverness pensioner was among an estimated 23,000 children born out of wedlock to Canadian servicemen and British women.
Her mother, Chrissie Fraser – who was the daughter of "Willie the Moon", the lightkeeper for the Lovat Frasers at Beaufort Castle – had a brief wartime romance with a soldier from the province of New Brunswick.
Mrs Nixon’s moving story and how she finally found her extended family on the other side of the Atlantic, thanks to a series of coincidences including an article she spotted in the Inverness Courier, is now highlighted in a new book.
Letters From Beauly, written by Canadian historian Melynda Jarratt, is based on the experiences of the author’s grandfather who served with the Canadian Forestry Corps in the Beauly area during the war.
As part of her research, Ms Jarratt twice visited the Highlands and spoke to many descendants of the people her grandfather had written about in his letters back home during the war years. She also met Mrs Nixon, now aged 72, who responded after reading an article in the Courier about Ms Jarratt’s project.
Although Mrs Nixon, of Inshes, had always known her father was a Canadian soldier, she only discovered his name – Alfred Blizzard – after her mother died. But despite extensive efforts she was unable to get any further information from the Canadian authorities and was forced to give up the search.
The meeting with Ms Jarratt at the Lovat Arms hotel in Beauly in 2012 provided an unexpected breakthrough for Mrs Nixon.
"Melynda had previously written books about people trying to find their fathers and I told her it was alleged my father was an AP Blizzard," recalled Mrs Nixon.
"Melynda immediately responded saying she had interviewed his son for this book. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the people in all the world, he had responded to the same appeal for information in New Brunswick.
"It was the strangest thing. Here I was sitting in the Lovat Arms being told this. It was an unbelievable coincidence."
DNA testing proved she was the daughter of Alfred Blizzard who had joined 15 Company of the Canadian Forestry Corps in December 1940.
Married with four children, he was from a small community about 30km from Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, where he was known as one of the area’s best saw doctors – repairing, sharpening and fitting the huge blades in saw mills.
Having been posted to Beauly, Sergeant Blizzard attended a dance at Kiltarlity during Christmas 1944 when he was introduced to Chrissie Fraser who worked as a nanny for a local doctor’s family.
The pair were together for the next six months but just as Sergeant Blizzard was repatriated to Canada, Chrissie discovered she was pregnant.
"The only people who knew were her best friend and her brother plus the doctor who was moving to Norfolk with his wife and little boy," Mrs Nixon said.
"My mother went to Norfolk with them and I was born in a private hospital. She was supposed to give me away when I was six weeks old but then she decided against it and brought me back to Beauly and then had to tell her family."
She returned to the family croft close to Beaufort Castle where she worked and when her daughter was eight, married a local man who raised young Rosie as his own.
After her mother died suddenly in 1963, Mrs Nixon came across an old address book containing the details of an AP Blizzard and his military personnel number but did not pursue the lead out of sensitivity towards her stepfather who died 10 years later.
Only then, did she feel able to start looking for her biological father but despite writing to various Canadian authorities and organisations, she found herself thwarted at every step and gave up in 1988.
But thanks to the meeting five years ago with Ms Jarratt, she finally made contact with the family of her father who had died in 1985. Unbeknown to her, they were aware of her existence although they did not know her name or where she lived.
It transpired Sergeant Blizzard’s brother had also served with the Canadian Forestry Corps but returned home at a later date, knowing of young Rosie’s arrival and had guessed who her father was.
"When he went back to Canada, there was a family get together and he announced it to all and sundry," Mrs Nixon said. "Two of my brothers came over here in 1958 and tried to find out where their father had been and tried to find me but without success."
Since making contact, Mrs Nixon has been to New Brunswick to meet her half-siblings and extended family.
"I was very nervous but very excited the first time I went but they welcomed me with open arms," she said. "They always wanted to meet me. There is no animosity at all."
Mrs Nixon, who has two sons and two daughters, plus seven grandchildren, has formed close bonds with her Canadian side of the family although sadly her eldest half-brother, Alfred, died two years ago.
"My mum was lovely and very kind," she said. "I had a fabulous childhood.
"People said why did I want to know who my father was but my mother died when I was aged 17 and I was left with nobody. I think it helped me to know who I am.
"Seeing the story in the book is very emotional but it shows there are happy endings.