Like many children born during “the enormous upheaval of war”, as she put it herself, former BBC chief news correspondent Kate Adie was the by-product of a love affair, which led to her birth mother, Babe Dunnett, being forced to give her up for adoption.
While Ms Adie ultimately developed a loving relationship with her birth mother, who died last year aged 94, what became of her father, a Waterford man named John Kelly, remains a mystery.
Seeking to glean further information about her father, “whose name in Ireland is, I realise, as common as John Smith is in England”, Ms Adie has chosen to speak publicly about her ongoing search for John Kelly.
“What I know of John Kelly was relayed to me by my mother. I always knew I’d been adopted (by Wilfred and Maud Adie, both also deceased, of Sunderland) and I had a very happy childhood in the north-east of England. I know only too well that my happy upbringing as an adopted child was an experience not shared by others during that huge period of social flux in Britain, and I’ve long recognised how blessed I was to be brought up in so loving a home.
“But after my adoptive parents died, a number of things led me to see if I could find out more about my blood relatives. I was most fortunate to come to know my birth mother very well, and we had 25 wonderful years in which we came to know and love each other very, very much,” Ms Adie said.
“I’ve had a curiosity about my father, John Kelly; for example, while I know he was from Waterford, I don’t know if he was from the city or the county.”
John and Babe met in Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1944, while he was working for Dowsett Engineering; Babe’s husband was serving as a British army medic during the Second World War.
“It was a whirlwind, that’s how my mother described it. And she was swept along by him. She told me that John was a fun, devil-may-care type in the nicest possible sense, full of life, and brimming with Irish charm. He was a great storyteller, sung songs to her, took her dancing, even brought her greyhound racing, something she’d never been to before,” Ms Adie said.
“My mother said he was a very sweet, romantic man, was a little older than her, probably in his early 30s, was dark haired, of medium height, and had slightly wavy hair. We know he had a brother (Michael) but that, alas, is pretty much the extent of what I know of him.”
“I have met dead end after dead end when it comes to finding out more about my father. I know he spoke to my mother about travelling to America, but such talk would have been quite common in the period in question.”
The last contact John had with Babe was a letter sent in late 1945; Kate was born in September of that year.
“He knew I existed. He knew he had a daughter. But I know so little about him and I would love to know more about my Waterford roots; I wonder did John have to de-register his ration card in Ireland and then register for a British ration card when he got off the boat from Waterford, Dublin, or perhaps even Cork?
“But John didn’t abandon my mother; she never felt abandoned by him. He knew he couldn’t stay, just as I knew, given the societal norms of the time, that my mother, as a married woman with another child, couldn’t keep me. But if there is anyone in Waterford, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter, who may be able to shed some light in relation to my father, that would mean a great deal to me.”
Contact John Hammond (on behalf of Ms Adie) on 087 9287718 or 051 4555581.
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