Sharon Temple-Sowerby and Adrian Stokes
A first for Long Lost Family this week’s episode will be a one-hour special.
Sharon Temple-Sowerby, a 50-year-old mother-of-two, is searching for her mother who, for reasons she may never discover, refused to ever formally give her up for adoption and yet was unable to bring her up herself.
Sharon grew up as the only daughter of a loving couple who, for many years, had been desperate for a child. She felt very close to both of them, especially her mother Elizabeth, describing their bond as ‘magical.’ But, when she was eleven years old, Sharon made a shocking discovery that caused her to question everything she knew about herself. Looking through some of her mother’s belongings she came across a letter that told her that her birth mother was called Ann. Elizabeth, the woman she had been calling, ‘Mam’ all these years, wasn’t actually her birth mother.
Sharon says: “I was a nosy child and I was in my Mam’s bureau and I came across a letter. I found out that the person I had been calling ‘Mam’ all those years wasn’t actually my biological mother. It was just a shock.”
Sharon assumed she had been adopted but, as the truth came out over the next few years, it turned out to be more complicated than that. Sharon learned that her mother and father had been trying to have a child for years but had been unable to. One day Elizabeth’s GP told her that he had arranged for her to take care of a new born baby, as her birth mother, Ann, was unable to look after her. Elizabeth was told that Ann was a single mother with two other children who would be unable to cope with a third child.
Ann gave up her new born daughter into Elizabeth’s care but refused to make it a formal adoption. Legally her daughter, now known as Sharon, still belonged to Ann. This situation made life for Elizabeth incredibly hard; never knowing when or if Ann would decide she wanted Sharon back. There followed months of heartache as the two mothers both voiced their desire to keep and care for Sharon.
Sharon says: “I was a child in the middle of a tug of war- a tug of love that was just so hard on both sides.”
Over a period of a few months, Ann contacted Elizabeth on a number of occasions stating she wanted Sharon back, but this was never followed up. Elizabeth was left torn: overjoyed she could keep the child she deeply loved, but terrified she may be taken away at any moment.
Elizabeth says:“It’s on your mind everyday when you wake up. I thought she was never ever going to be ours...living with the uncertainty it was terrible.”
Sharon believes these attempts to reclaim her demonstrate that Ann must have loved her.
She says: “I still feel though, she must have wanted me. She must have loved me. I think her heart was ruling her head. Her heart wanted me, her head couldn’t keep me because she didn’t have any money.”
Now in her seventies, Elizabeth is incredibly supportive and understanding of Sharon’s need to find her birth mother. Sharon, though understanding of the pain that Elizabeth has gone through, imagines Ann to have been through a great deal of pain herself.
Sharon, who now lives with her husband in Tyne and Wear, has been searching for her birth mother since she was 19 years old. She applied to Bradford Social Services for information, but, as there was never any legal adoption, they were only able to give her the card index that listed her birth mother’s name and the name she gave Sharon when she was born.
Sharon describes the strong bond she feels from having this information and the need she has to find her birth mother and let her know she understands.
She says: “I need to look in her eyes and say, ‘I know you love me, I know you did.’”
Sharon approached Long Lost Family for help but, with the lack of any legal paperwork, the search for her mother proved fruitless. For the first time on Long Lost Family Davina has to break this news to Sharon. Understandably she is incredibly upset but Davina does have news for Sharon. In the course of searching for her mother, her brother Adrian is found. He is delighted to have the possibility of contact with his birth family.
Adrian, an engineer and a loving father of 10, has an eerily similar story to Sharon’s. He lived with his mum until he was six years old, when he was taken into care after suffering violence at the hand of his step-father. He lived in a children’s home until he was 10, and was then fostered. He was only formally adopted when he was sixteen. Adrian always had an inkling that he had a sister, though never knew for sure.
Thrilled to have found Adrian, Sharon says:“He looks like me doesn’t he? It’s so weird after all these years just looking at a link.”
When Adrian and Sharon meet they are able to understand each other’s experiences and find some comfort in having a shared history.
Following Sharon’s reunion with her brother Adrian, Long Lost Family was determined to continue the search for their mother. Knowing that Adrian had been officially adopted, a record of his adoption should exist which might give a clue. But, when he had approached a post adoption support agency in the past, they couldn’t find any trace of his file. It was only when we went back to the social services office Sharon had already been in touch with, that his file was uncovered buried deep in the archives.
Within the file Adrian discovers an extraordinary collection of letters and birthday cards sent by his mother over the years. For Adrian this confirmation of his mother’s love only makes the search more significant.
It was after this file was discovered that a major breakthrough happened. A call from social services brought the series the news everyone had been hoping for, an address had been discovered in the archives, from just a few years ago. With this new information a check of electoral rolls could be undertaken. The programme was finally on the right trail and though she had moved several times since leaving her address with social services, Long Lost Family was finally able to trace Ann to an address in Kent.
Though life has not been easy for Ann, she was delighted to have been found and desperate to see her daughter and son.
Davina visits Sharon and Adrian to break this incredible news to them. Both are stunned at how much they look like their mother. Ann’s letter gives them both the reassurance they need that never giving up their search was the right thing to do.
Ann says in her letter to Sharon and Adrian: “There are no words that can tell you how so sorry I am for not being in your lives. Not a single day’s gone by that I have not thought of you both. I love you both very much. I prayed that one day I would see you again.”
Long Lost Family is with Sharon and Adrian when, having waited a lifetime for the chance, they are finally able to meet their mother Ann in an emotional reunion in the city of Sharon’s birth, Bradford.