Gloria Hunniford: ‘My daughter, my guardian angel’

Broadcaster Gloria Hunniford was bereft when her eldest child Caron Keating died at 41. Then she received a surprising sign… She reveals why she’s convinced Caron is watching over the family. 

Gloria Hunniford and her daughter Caron
Gloria Hunniford with her daughter, former Blue Peter presenter Caron. Image: Dave Parker/Alpha

Nine months after Caron died from breast cancer in 2004, my husband Stephen and I took her sons Gabriel and Charlie to Disneyland. We were walking along the wet platform to the train and my mood was as miserable as the weather. Caron should have been there with us.

All of a sudden a beautiful white feather landed at my feet. Caron had been fascinated with angels ever since she made a documentary about them and would insist, ‘There are angels for everything, you just have to ask.’ She believed implicitly that if you find a single feather it is an angel’s calling card – a sign that they’re there with you.

Seeing the feather in front of me that day gave me the loveliest feeling. It was like Caron was saying to me, ‘It’s OK, I am coming with you.’ Another time, the boys were at the swimming pool, splashing about and having a great time. The whole place was drenched. When it was time for me to get them out, a large feather – it was completely dry – floated down on to a ledge. I don’t know where it came from. But I think Caron was there, watching the boys in that happy moment.

Since then I see white feathers everywhere – in the most obscure places. I even see them in the TV studio. If I’ve had a rotten day then go home and find a feather, I know it’s Caron saying, ‘Come on, it’s not that bad. It will be fine.’

Whenever I’m in trouble or going through something difficult, I’ll see one. Just this Christmas, Stephen had a terrible fall and a feather appeared and reminded me it will all be OK.

Gloria with, from left, her son Paul, grandsons Gabriel and Charlie, and son Michael at Caron’s grave

Birthdays and important anniversaries rarely pass without me seeing a feather, especially when I’m with her boys, who are now 23 and 27, and I love that. I like to believe it’s Caron saying, ‘I’m here and I’m watching them.’ I always put it in my pocket and bring it home – I’ve got hundreds of them in jars around my house.

I have been interested in angels since childhood. I was a regular churchgoer when I was growing up in Portadown, Northern Ireland, and loved the angels in the stained-glass windows. Then in my 30s I was working at the BBC in Belfast. I was filming one Boxing Day and it was only me and the sound engineer in the studio. He said to me, ‘Do you know that you have a guardian angel? She’s over your shoulder keeping an eye on you. I see her when you are on TV.’

I challenged him, asking what she looked like. He described my paternal grandmother to the letter. She’d had a stroke so had a little twisted smile. He told me, ‘It’s nothing to be afraid of. You are lucky to have a guardian angel.’ And I like the thought that my grandmother is watching over me. I think Caron is a guardian angel to her boys in the same way.

Apart from the feathers that Caron sends me, I believe there are other angels on Earth who come to you when you need them. In 2004, four months after Caron died, Stephen and I were driving to our house in the South of France. I wasn’t driving fast, as it was bumper-to-bumper traffic, but I must have fallen asleep because we careered across a very busy road and smashed through a pedestrian crossing sign.

Gloria’s angel figurines were a gift from her friend Danny La Rue. Image: Mike Lawn/Weekend Magazine/SOLO Syndication

I opened my eyes to see Stephen’s head against the windscreen. There was blood on his face as well as coming from his ear. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve killed him.’ It was shocking. Ambulances and police cars started arriving then, suddenly, this long blonde haired girl came out of the crowd. In perfect English she said to me, ‘Would you like me to look after your things?’ We had personal belongings, passports and all sorts but I said, ‘Yes please.’ We left them with her and went to the hospital. Thankfully Stephen was not seriously injured.

We didn’t know where we were but we found a hotel and the next morning we went to a café in the square for some breakfast. The girl from the crash scene appeared at our table and said, ‘Would you like me to take you to your car?’

We had been in such a state of shock we didn’t know where our car was – we were just so grateful to be alive. We had thought the car had been moved by the police but didn’t have a clue where to start looking. She drove us to a garage about 4km away where we found our car and all our precious belongings.

We thanked her then she said goodbye and drove off. Later, when we had calmed down, I felt terrible that I didn’t say a proper thank you – she had been so kind. I bought her flowers and we went back to the café where, I assumed, she was a waitress. But she wasn’t there and, to our amazement, the owner had no idea who I was talking about when I described her. We didn’t know her name and no one in the tiny French village knew who she was.

I believe she was a guardian angel on Earth looking out for us. When I talk about it I still get goosebumps and shivers up my back. I think she was sent to us when we really needed it.

Many of my fans have written to me over the years sharing similar stories about feathers and guardian angels. I know some people think I’m mad but I don’t care whether people believe me or not. When I talk about the feathers with my friend and Loose Women colleague Janet Street-Porter, I know that she’s sceptical. People can be as cynical as they want. I like the feeling the feathers give me; they bring me comfort.

I know they’re from Caron. I believe it – and that’s what matters.

As told to Kelly Allen