Two brothers have been reunited after spending almost eight decades unaware of each others existence. Frederick, 80, and Jimmy O’Donnell, 78, were born in separate mother and baby homes in the 1930s. They moved through a series of homes before settling in Britain.
With the help of Finders International, a company that tracks down relatives of people who die without leaving a will, the two brothers recently met for the first time.
“It was very emotional. The way it was was that we were waiting for him and I spotted him. I said to my daughter Patricia: ‘I bet it’s that little man over there’.
He was combing his hair so I went over and stood behind him, never said anything to him. So I tipped him on the back and said: ‘Hello brother’ and he looked and said: “Hello, I have got a family at last”,” Frederick told the Pat Kenny Show.
Frederick said he spotted the resemblance instantly and that Jimmy said Frederick had been forced to endure a tougher life than him due to being in the Artane Industrial School from a young age.
“I was fostered out to different people and as far as I know the last people who fostered me couldn’t look after me so I was found on the streets of Dublin begging. I was seven or eight.”
Frederick was picked up by the gardaí from the streets, taken to court and sentenced to eight years in Artane, before moving to England and raising a family with his wife in Bradford.
“That’s a thing I don’t want to talk about [Artane]. I’ve been through it. It’s been all over the papers and stuff through the years. I had a hard life there,” he said.
Frederick always had a feeling he had a sibling but a family story pushed his daughter to try and search for his sibling.
“My wife’s sister knew a doctor that went to the house in Eugene Street and she was told that my mother had two siblings but she never knew if it was two boys or a boy and a girl. It was just a little clue but it all sparked from there,” he said.
Shortly after having her two children, Frederick and Jimmy’s mother went into the Sunday’s Well Magdalene Laundry in Cork in 1938. She never left and died there at the age of 82 in 1996.
Frederick’s daughter Theresa Wardley has approached the order on numerous occasions looking for any information on her grandmother.
“Because of data protection and everything that’s going on, all the information is gone to the order. I spoke to them on numerous occasions but I can’t get anything,” she said.
While Jimmy managed to trace his mother after more than 30 years, Frederick never got to meet her again before her death. Recently he saw a photograph of her for the first time.
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