DUBLIN Airport was bursting with emotion this week after two sisters from opposite ends of the earth finally met each other for the first time after a 28-year search.
Lesley Fagan (64) arrived in Dublin Airport on Tuesday morning with her husband, Steve, to meet her older sister, Joan Crawford-Murray (67), who was put up for adoption shortly after she was born.
Joan, who had travelled all the way from Perth to meet her sister, who lives in Enniskillen, never even knew she had a sibling until Lesley tracked her down using social media.
Speaking exclusively to The Gazette, Lesley described the fascinating story about her extensive search.
“In 1989, whilst still living in Warrington, my mum said that she had something to tell me. She said I have a half-sister which she had to give up for adoption in 1948.
“Although my mum was not a teenager at the time, she belonged to a very devout Catholic family of six daughters. One of her sisters put my mum under a lot of pressure, saying that if her dad was to find out about her pregnancy, it would bring great shame upon the family.
“She then decided to hide the pregnancy and put the child into a Catholic Mother and Babies home in Prestwich, Manchester,” said Lesley.
“She stayed with her baby for six weeks, which must have been awful, knowing that she would have to give her up. When the day finally came, she had to sign some documents to authorise the adoption.
“At this point, the nun left the room and mum saw on the desk the name and address of the prospective parents. She never forgot this information. Mum was able to recite exactly both parent’s names and their address, which was unbelievable, after 50 years.
“With this information, I immediately began my search, starting with The Salvation Army, but unfortunately they were unable to help me track her down.
“I eventually started searching every adoption facility to find my sister, and upon checking the electoral records, I discovered that the family disappeared off the electoral roll in 1958.
“In hindsight, I probably should have known that they emigrated, but at the time I didn’t follow it up because I was so busy with my career and raising a family,” she said.
In October, 2015, Lesley, who has two daughters and a granddaughter, read a story about how Chinese twins separated at birth found each other via Facebook.
This inspired her to continue her search and publish an online appeal on the social networking site with the hopes that someone would lead her in the right direction.
Eventually, two genealogists – Jill Harrington, in the UK, and Terri O’Neill, in Perth – managed to track her sister down in just one week.
“The search was difficult and complicated, but eventually I found myself staring at a photograph of a lady who looked like myself, but also the model of our mother.
“With the help of Terri O’Neill, I was talking to her on the telephone by the end of that very week.
“My sister always wondered about her natural family in England, and her husband, Les, had been recently badgering her to start the search. Now, she doesn’t have to!
“Steve and I are blessed with two wonderful daughters, and an 11-year-old grandchild, Emily.
“Jo has two children from her first marriage, and two granddaughters that I’m very much looking forward to getting to know,” said Lesley.
Despite her jetlag, Joan was delighted to talk to The Gazette about meeting Lesley. She said: “It was just such an incredible feeling, meeting Lesley for the very first time.
“The moment I walked through the departure gates I immediately recognised her and started to cry with tears of joy.
“Embracing her at last after all this time was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I felt an immediate connection to her and her husband, who I’ve been dying to meet.
“The build-up over the past couple of weeks has been just so emotional and surreal. I never even realised that I even had a sister until Lesley managed to contact me on Facebook.
“They actually messaged my daughter, who then broke the news to me that I have a sister!
“We’re now staying with Lesley and her family for 20 days, which will give us plenty of time to catch up and learn all about each other.
“It’s been an incredible journey so far, and I know both of our families will have a wonderful relationship into the future.”
To view the emotional video of the these sisters meeting for the first time, visit our Facebook page www.facebook/dublingazettenewspapers