Brother and sister abandoned at birth 50 years ago are reunited

Brother and sister sitting on a vintage. (PHOTO: PBNJ Productions/Getty Images)
Brother and sister sitting on a vintage. (PHOTO: PBNJ Productions/Getty Images)
PBNJ Productions

The restorative qualities of a good cry have been underlined during lockdown.

With so many of us missing loved ones, the story of a brother and sister reuniting – 50 years after they were abandoned as babies – is more cathartic than ever.

David McBride (58) was left in the front seat of an unlocked car on the outskirts of Belfast on a freezing cold January evening in 1962, while his sister Helen Ward (52) was found on the other side of the Irish border in a telephone booth in Dundalk six years later.

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Both babies were found in a tartan bag, but with no identifying information authorities were unable to trace their birth parents.

“The lady who owned the car found me in the front seat,” David told UK’s This Morning hosts, Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield.

“She took me into the house and put me on the table. She ran across the road to get a neighbour and then called the police. They took me to the hospital in Belfast.”

David reveals that his adoption certificate doesn’t state that he was born in Northern Ireland. “It doesn’t say I was born in Northern Ireland. “It doesn’t say I was born anywhere.”

“I didn't really know much until I was about 15 years of age. I went to get a birth certificate for joining the army and I couldn't get hold of one and when I got hold of one, it said 'on or about the 6th January 1962’.”

 David, now living in Birmingham with his wife and their three children, has spent most of his life looking for answers. In 2002 he launched an appeal which led one of most high-profile media campaigns of any foundling (a person abandoned as a baby).

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His younger sister, Helen, has a remarkably similar backstory.

Having been found on the other side of the Irish border, Helen now lives north of Dublin with her son Peter and two daughters, Eva and Adele, reports the Mirror.

She told Holly and Phillip that while she always knew she was adopted, her curiosity about another possible family grew as she got older.

“My parents were very open from an early age. They told me with plenty of love and care that I was adopted,” she says.

While her father told her to “let sleeping dogs lie” when she expressed at the age of 18 that she wanted to know more, she says she couldn't rest.

Finally, in 2003, Helen found the courage to visit an adoption centre in Drogheda in southern Ireland.

Sadly, her birth certificate had only the simple words “child found exposed”.

“I had gone in with such hope because it meant so much to  me to find my birth mother. It broke my heart that day I left. Absolutely broke my heart.”

Then last year Helen took a DNA test and posted it on an online database in a last-ditch attempt to find a blood relative.

Unbeknown to her, her long-lost brother David had also submitted his DNA sample to British TV show Long Lost Family in an attempt to trace his roots, reports Independent.

The TV show’s team worked off hunches – their major clue was that both infants had been left in the same red tartan shopping bags – and DNA tests to discover, astoundingly, that David and Helen were brother and sister.

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But sadder revelations followed their happy news, reports iNews.

Their Catholic father was married with 14 children; their mother, a Protestant 16 years his junior, never married, yet their relationship apparently endured until his death in 1993.

Illegitimacy and the deep religious divide in Ireland sealed David and Helen’s fates; their mother’s death in 2017 meant some mysteries would always remain unsolved.

But at least they’ve had some answers, photos to treasure and extended families to approach – and each other.

“It's absolutely wonderful,” David gushed after meeting Helen for the first time. “She's more than I expected.”

"It's been unbelievable. Sitting there opposite my brother – it’s a miracle," Helen added.

Sources: Birmingham Mail, iNews, Independent, Standard, Daily Mail, Mirror, iTV