Before he succumbs to terminal cancer, Colin Butts wants to find the Irishwoman who gave him up for adoption, writes Arlene Harris
When Colin Butts was born, he was given a different name. The 57-year-old from London was originally called Louis Michael Quinlan by his mother, who was most likely Irish.
However, not long after he was born on September 11, 1959, at the Cheniston Nursing Home, Kensington, London, he was given up for adoption.
Now, diagnosed with a terminal illness, the author and scriptwriter is desperate to find his biological mother to get the chance of meeting her at least once before being overcome by pancreatic cancer.
He hopes someone in Ireland may have the answers.
“My mother’s name was Catherine Mary Quinlan,” he says. “The only other information I have about her is that she worked as a waitress and was living at 186 Holland Park Avenue, which is opposite what is now the Kensington Hilton Hotel.
“I also have a letter from an obstetrician to a doctor in Chelsea, but on that it refers to a Mrs K Quinlan, so possibly a different spelling of Catherine, and it also states that she’s married, but that might have been more to do with respectability.”
For years, Colin wasn’t too concerned about tracing his blood relatives, but did follow one trail which led him to a woman who was originally from Cork.
However, despite authorities believing they had found his mother and putting him in touch with his ‘relatives’, this proved to be a false hope. However, instead of discouraging him, this just made Colin even more determined to trace his roots.
“My adoptive parents died when I was quite young — my mother when I was 19 and my father when I was 25,” he says. “I did a bit of investigating in the UK and found a Catherine Mary Quinlan and for many years thought it to be her.
“One November, five years ago, I tracked her and used an intermediary agency to get in touch. They [the officials] didn’t get back to me until March and then broke the news that she had died in November. I was enveloped with a feeling of sadness and, ultimately, guilt. Had I been compelled to pursue with more urgency, then this poor woman who had probably waited her whole life to meet me or know of me, now wouldn’t get the chance.
“So I ended up talking to her children and did a DNA test with one of them, but it proved negative and I was actually relieved, because before I found her, strange though it may sound, I didn’t really have the emotional connect and it had felt more like a paper-chase, an intellectual curiosity to satisfy nature v nurture-type questions, but now it had become very real.”
The Cork lead turned out to be false and now Colin has no idea about his mother’s Irish origins, but is determined to find out.
However, while anxious to contact his family, he is conscious his plea, coming out of the blue, could cause emotional upheaval.
“My main concerns with trying to find my mother in such a public way is, first of all, I wonder is it fair for me to come into her life (if she’s still alive) and leave it again in a relatively short period of time. And, secondly, the fact she had me adopted might be one that has been kept secret for a reason, so the last thing I want to do is cause any major upset.
“However, pretty much any programme I have watched on this subject and any woman I have spoken to who has given a baby up, all have wanted to see their child.”
Diagnosed in February, the Londoner is undergoing treatment and, while initially given a prognosis of 12 to 18 months, he hopes his life will extend beyond that.
“When I was given my diagnosis in mid-February, I was told that without treatment I would be dead by June,” he says. “So, I started medication in March and was lucky enough to go on a regime, which includes a trial chemotherapy drug, which is showing good results.
“My attitude to it for now is the bullet is out of the gun, so I just need to do all I can to keep dodging it and hope that some of the huge amount of research currently going into pancreatic cancer bears fruit before I expire. Ironically, I’m probably in as good a physical shape as I’ve ever been in my life and, for the most part, my head is still very positive, but I would really like the chance to meet the woman who made that incredibly brave decision all of those years ago as, without her, I wouldn’t have had the amazing life I have had.
“I am asking anyone who has any information, no matter how small or insignificant they think it might be, about Catherine Mary Quinlan to get in touch with me as soon as possible. Maybe they were in Cheniston Nursing Home or lived in Holland Park Avenue, but I would really appreciate any help in finding my mother.”
Anyone with any information can contact Colin through www.facebook. com/colin.butts.31?fref=ts
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