By Rose Barrett
October 23 is a traumatic date for members of the Timmins family – it is the anniversary of the day their father went missing.
Albert Timmins, a stereo typist with the Irish Independent, was a widower with three children Liam (24), Carol (16) and Tricia (12) when he left to visit a friend 40 years ago.
He never returned, seemingly vanished without trace. Four decades on, his devastated children are still searching for answers.
A year before his disappearance, Albert’s wife Margaret died as a result of a clot following a broken leg. She was aged only 48 years old, and the couple had been married for over 28 years, and lived at St Cronans Avenue, Swords.
“We had noticed a few months before that he wasn’t coping very well at home, calling me by mam’s name, Maggie,” said Albert’s daughter Carol. “My brother Liam and I went to the GP to say we were concerned – he just didn’t seem himself. The doctor said Da was grand, but three weeks later, he disappeared.
“Da said he was going over to meet a friend who lived in Gaeltacht Park, Santry. I was in my granny’s in Nevinstown, with Auntie Maisie too. Daddy dropped Tricia up to Granny’s, saying he would pick us both up at 10pm.”
Albert did arrive at his pal’s house in Santry, and invited him to go for a drink, but the offer was declined. “My father left in time to collect us at 10pm but he was never seen since. He simply disappeared,” said Carol.
“No one reported seeing his car, or him after that. He drove a white “Wolseley” car, registration number YZU-896,” noted Carol.
“Sadly, I believe he was overcome with grief over Mam and drove himself into the sea somewhere. He was grieving and missing her badly at the time. Da was not in his right mind; if he was, he wouldn’t have left us. You couldn’t fault him as a father but like I said, he was struggling during the weeks prior to his disappearance”.
Mary Callaghan, a psychotherapist and counsellor who formerly worked with Missing in Ireland Support Service (MISS), said it’s a devastating trauma for a family.
She said: “When someone dies, we grieve and mourn; however, in the case of a missing person, there may never be an answer as to what happened to them. This type of loss is known as ‘ambiguous loss’ which freezes the grief process.
“It prevents the family from properly grieving. They can’t get over it, they can’t move forward, they are frozen and unlike a bereavement, there is no proof that allows for any sort of conclusion, for closure.”
“They don’t know whether to grieve fully or to hold out hope.”
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The trauma certainly lived with the Timmins children for decades.
Carol revealed: “Many times, since my father’s disappearance, my brother and I, or my Aunt Maisie were called to identify bodies in the morgue. Granny died the following April after Da went missing. Possibly, four or five times we were called to identify bodies which had been washed up in the sea, but it was never our Da.
“And each time, you hope. Then it brings it all back again, and you wonder will we ever find Da, will we ever have closure?
“Maisie was wonderful, we stayed with her for years until Tricia and I married, and later, she came to live with me for at least 13 years before she died. It was tragic for her and is still painful for us, not knowing were Da is.
“If he is deceased, we’d like to put him to rest. Only a few months ago, a man’s body was identified after being missing for 34 years. This is what prompted me to ignite Da’s missing man campaign.
“A garda from the Missing Person’s Unit told us there are 500 unnamed bodies buried across Ireland and the UK. We gave a sample of our DNA to see if it matched or would match any further reports of bodies found.
“We accepted our Ma’s death but none of us ever accepted or got over Da’s disappearance. We’d like closure,” said Carol who lives in Swords with her husband Dave.
“He disappeared on October 23, 1980. If anyone knows anything or remembers seeing my Da or his car, please contact the Missing Persons Unit on 01 666 9476,” concluded Carol.
For more information, see the Garda website.