After 50 years, foundlings, abandoned on either side of the Irish border have been reunited. In 1962, David McBride was found in a tartan bag on the outskirts of Belfast city on a cold January morning. Then in 1968 Helen Ward was also found in a tartan bag, on the other side of the Irish border, in Dundalk, County Louth.
Despite having the same parents, the siblings had no idea they were brother and sister until last year. The TV show Long Lost Family used DNA testing to reunite them. Their parents a Catholic mother and a Protestant father had had an affair for over 40 years.
Both David and Helen had happy upbringings with their adoptive families. However, they both had a strong need to find their birth parents.
David only discovered he was adopted when he was 15 years old. On applying to join the military he discovered that his birth certificate said he was born ‘on or about 6th January’.
When he asked his father what that meant, he was told the full story. He had been just 14 days old when he was found.
“It meant for the first few weeks of my life someone fed me, kept me warm, loved me.”
Helen, similarly, didn’t know the story surrounding her birth. “My birth mum was always in the back of my mind, and the hardship of giving me up.”
In 2019 Helen took a DNA test and posted the results to an online database in an attempt to locate any blood relative. Within months, David did the same and they made the amazing discovery.
“Finding Helen was one of the greatest gifts. When we sat down and started talking, the world around us didn’t exist”, said David.
Researchers on the show also managed to find their parents. Sadly, their father, a shop manager had died in Dublin in 1993. Their mother had also passed away in 2017. Their story was a heart-breaking one. Their father was a married Protestant with 14 children. He had had an affair with their mother, who was 17 years his junior.
At the time, their relationship would have been a scandal.
“The fact that my mother became pregnant out of wedlock, there was real problems for both of them”, said David on ITV’s chat show This Morning.
Sadly, their mother never married, nor did she have any more children. On learning this David and Helen felt great compassion for their lost mother. The brother and sister have now visited her grave and spoken to three of their half-siblings on their father’s side by phone.
“We started one journey,” said David. “Now we are on another, getting to know each other and our family.”