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Long Lost Family

  • Episode: 

    3 of 6

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Wed 17 Jun 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

    Yes
  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 25 2015 : Sat 13 Jun - Fri 19 Jun
  • Channel: 

    ITV
The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press, online and social media use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 9 June 2015.
 
This episode features two stories exploring feelings of abandonment- a son who has struggled with the fact that he was given up for adoption and a brother whose biggest fear is that his little sister felt abandoned when he was kept by their mother and she wasn’t.
 
Peter Gunn searching for his birth mother Daphne Phelan
 
Peter Gunn is a thirty nine year old carpenter and lives in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. Peter has struggled his whole life with the decision his birth mother made to give him up for adoption as a baby. He is now searching for her, hoping that she will finally help him put his demons to rest.
 
“She had a choice, me or her family, why would she choose her family over her newly born baby…she didn’t have to hand me over.”
 
After a time in foster care as a baby, at 9 months old Peter was adopted by Miriam Gunn and her then husband. Today Peter lives next door to his adoptive mother Miriam and they have a close relationship. 
 
“She has been there throughout everything… she is a very special woman.” Says Peter
 
Peter had a very happy early childhood, knowing he was adopted, with the love and support of his adoptive family.  It wasn’t until his parents’ marriage broke down and his father left the family home that negative feelings surrounding being given up for adoption began to surface. 
 
“It (his father leaving) just felt like another rejection”, says Peter
 
From this point, Peter began to feel as though there was something missing from his life, although he often felt a sense of guilt for thinking this way given the abundant love and care his adoptive mother gave him.
 
Peter says, “Mum was the fixer. But that was the one thing she couldn’t fix.”
 
When Peter was eighteen years old he accessed his adoption file, in the hope that it might answer some of his questions. The file revealed that his mother was called Daphne and that she was from Ireland. As he delved further Peter discovered a letter written by Daphne stating that if she were to keep her baby she would have had to cut herself off from her family.
 
Peter’s understanding of this letter was that his birth mother chose her family over him, “she had a choice, me or her family… I just couldn’t understand it,” he says. Unable to deal with the emotional fallout Peter fell into drugs and alcohol and soon developed a habit, which spiraled out of control.  Miriam remembers all too well the heartbreak of watching her son deteriorate. “It was absolutely terrifying”, she says. 
 
Fearful of losing her son, Miriam remortgaged her house to pay for her son’s rehabilitation. This was the turning point for Peter who, thanks to the loving support of his adoptive mother, has not touched drugs since. 
 
It was during his treatment that Peter began to think again about his birth mother and reassess his original feelings about the choice she made to give him up.
 
“I had looked at the situation in a selfish way…it must have been the hardest decision anyone could ever be asked to make.”
 
Peter knew he had to track down his birth mother and hear her side of the story: “If I could hear I didn’t want to let you go…that is all that matters”
 
When Long Lost Family took on the search, we discovered Daphne was living back in the town of Arklow in the Republic of Ireland where she grew up. Like many women in the 1960s and 70s, including Nicky Campbell’s own birth mother, Daphne had felt that it would be easier to have her baby in the UK than the Republic of Ireland, where strict moral and religious attitudes made life very difficult for unmarried mothers.
 
Daphne describes to Nicky how devastated she was when she had to give Peter up all those years ago. It’s clear that it was far from an easy decision. Having grown up in a strict religious family in Ireland, she felt there was no way she could even tell her father about the pregnancy, which is why she stayed in UK to give birth to Peter. 
 
Daphne reveals to Nicky that in fact Peter had been with her for nine months before he went to his adoptive parents. She explains that although she tried, her living circumstances were terrible- she had very little money, she was living in a rough “mother and baby cum battered wives home” where she feared for the baby’s safety. It became apparent there was no way she could keep her baby and give him the life he deserved.
 
“If I had any chance at all I would have never given him up.” She says.
“No matter what words I can say, I can never tell him how sorry I am”.
 
Davina travels to meet Peter and tells him that his birth mother’s decision to put him up for adoption was not one that was taken lightly and that Daphne had desperately tried to keep him.  For Peter, it is all that he has been waiting to hear. He reads a letter from Daphne in which she expresses her hopes for their future together and then shares the momentous news with his adoptive mother, who has stood side by his side throughout his search.  
 
“Just to know she wants to be a part of my life is phenomenal”, Peter says.
 
The reunion between son and mother takes place in Bedford, the town where Peter was born. Meeting in a park café, Daphne finally tells Peter face to face that he was not simply abandoned and Peter can dispel the feelings that have cast a shadow over his life. 
 
In a touching final moment, Peter’s adoptive mother, Miriam meets Daphne and the pair hug, united in love and gratitude for “their son”.
 
Peter says, “I’ve got two mums who want me in their lives and that is fantastic”.
 
Ron Williams searching for his sister Christine Robertson
 
Seventy-one year old Ron Williams is a loving father and grandfather who lives with his wife Janet in Mold, North Wales. He is searching for his beloved sister who disappeared from his life when they were only children, over sixty years ago.
 
Ron spent the formative years of his childhood living with his grandparents and his younger sister Christine in Llanrwst, North Wales.
 
Ron’s mother Mair had divorced twice and Ron and Christine had both been born out of wedlock between her two marriages. As a result of these affairs, Mair was the subject of rumours and persecution in the local community. In order to distance herself from the torment she had given her children to her parents to look after.
 
Growing up in a rural village and with only two years between them the pair were inseparable.  Ron has treasured memories of the brief time spent with little sister, Christine. He recalls their happy, carefree days together:
 
“It was bliss really…they were good times.”
 
However when Ron was six and Christine was four, their grandmother became ill and Ron left his grandparents’ home and was sent back to live with his mother. Christine did not join them though and as the weeks became months and months turned into years Ron realised that he was not going to see his little sister again. 
 
“I missed that closeness.” Ron says
 
Ron’s mother never spoke about Christine and referred to Ron as an only child when she introduced him in public.  It was not until he was fourteen years old that Ron eventually built up the courage to ask his mother what had happened to his sister. 
 
He was told that Christine had been adopted. From that moment Ron has struggled with the choice his mother made and took the weight of it on his own shoulders:
 
“It did make me feel terrible really…I was kept and she wasn’t”
 
For Ron the pain of not seeing his sister again has lived deep within him and there is not a day goes by that he doesn’t think of her. 
 
Long Lost Family took up the search and with the help of a specialist intermediary we eventually discovered Christine, now living in New Zealand, having emigrated over
forty years before.
 
Nicky makes the journey to New Zealand where Christine lives with her husband, Richard. 
 
The news that her brother has been searching for her is a most welcome shock for Christine.
 
“Its unbelievable…to find somebody that belonged to me, was a part of me.”
 
Having been only four when she was separated from her brother, Christine only had one real memory of him, of the pair crossing a stone bridge together. When Nicky starts to show Christine photos of them together as children, she is moved to tears.  Christine is determined to meet Ron and reassure him that she has never felt abandoned or any anger towards him. 
 
Davina travels to Wales to tell Ron that after more than sixty years of searching for his sister; he will finally have her back in his life. The news is overwhelming for Ron who cries tears of joy and relief. 
 
“I feel relieved, a huge weight has been lifted.”, says Ron
 
Not long after, Christine makes the 12,000-mile journey from New Zealand to Wales to reunite with her brother. The pair meet in Llanrwst, where they last lived together as children. Christine’s only vivid memory of her brother – the pair running across a stone bridge in the centre of the town – is here and it is at this spot, sixty four years on, that they arrange to meet. 
 
When Christine and Ron finally see one another again a healing process begins for both of them. Ron can finally put the guilt of the past behind him and begin to make new memories with his sister.  
 
“It has been sixty four years since I last saw my sister and I have finally got her back”