The moving moment a brother and sister who were both abandoned as babies by their mother – and left in identical red tartan bags – are reunited more than 50 years later is shown in tonight’s special of ITV’s Long Lost Family, Born Without Trace.
David McBride, 58, who lives in Birmingham, was found in a bag in 1962, while six years on, in 1968, Helen Ward, 52, from Dublin, was found also found in a checked bag, by a truck driver in a phone box – who saw a woman drive off in a car shortly after he parked nearby.
Their extraordinary story, of both being born foundlings to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother in 1960s Northern Ireland – at a time of deep sectarian conflict – is being hailed as one of the reunion show’s best ever stories.
Ahead of the show tonight, the pair appeared on This Morning from their respective homes, the pair recounted their remarkable individual stories – and their ‘amazing’ discovery of both each other, and a further 14 half-siblings since Long Lost Family researchers matched their DNA last year.
They also explained how their birth parents had had a 40-year long affair but that religion had kept them forever apart. While their father was a married protestant with 14 children in Dublin, their mother, 17 years his junior, was a Catholic living in Northern Ireland.
The moving moment a brother and sister who were both abandoned as babies by their mother – and left in identical red tartan bags – are reunited more than 50 years later is shown in tonight’s special of ITV’s Long Lost Family, Born Without Trace. Pictured: David McBride, 58, meeting his sister Helen Ward, 52, from Dublin, for the first time
Joy: Helen describes meeting her brother as ‘amazing’ and said the journey the pair have been on, discovering 14 more half-siblings on their father’s side had been ‘wonderful’
On tonight’s episode of Long Lost Foundlings, David is seen flying from Birmingham to Dublin, where Helen admits: ‘I can’t believe the day has come – you spend you life hoping and wishing, and now it’s finally happening. I can’t believe it’.
Meanwhile David admits: ‘I can’t wait. The only sad part is that if police had put two and two together at the time, maybe we would have grown up together. We’ve got to make up for a lot of lost time’.
Both siblings admit being abandoned has given them trust issues, and hope the meeting will help.
A nervous-looking David is seen waiting, as Helen walks in and they hurry towards each other beaming, before embracing.
‘How are you?’, they both exclaim, as David adds: ‘A bit of a shock?’, before Helen breaks down into tears.
And the pair sit down to catch up, with Helen revealing she had wonderful adoptive parents whom David ‘would have loved’, while David adds: ‘I hope you had a good life’.
Helen exclaims: ‘You were left in exactly the same circumstances’, and David agrees: ‘It’s bizarre that we were left in identical bags and so well looked after’.
He continues: ‘What was going through their head? It’s bizarre that they left a baby before so why do it again?’.
The story of David’s discovery on a freezing cold January evening in 1962 – he was left in the front seat of a car in a shopping bag – made the newspapers at the time
They then correctly ponder: ‘Was it one parent from the South and one from the North, different religions?’.
David adds: ‘The main thing is that we’ve found each other, after all these years’, before later admitting: ‘She’s absolutely wonderful. She was everything and more than I expected. It’s wonderful.’
The pair then marvel over how much their own teenage daughters resemble each other.
Speaking of her new brother, Helen later says: ‘It’s a miracle, it’s a strange feeling, sitting there opposite your real family. It’s a strange and exciting to meet your brother after 51 years’.
David: ‘Having met you has helped me to put my barriers down’.
David McBride, who lives in Birimingham, and sister Helen Ward, from Dublin, found each other after more than 50 years after the show Long Lost Family matched them via a DNA test – the siblings had both been abandoned as babies in Northern Ireland in the 1960s
The pair later discover both their parents have sadly passed away, and their mother, whose face is not shown, was 34 when she had David, and 41, when she gave birth to Helen – never marrying or having any more children.
The pair reveal it has brought them peace knowing religion and the stigma attached to being an unmarried mother resulted in them being given up, but admit it’s sad they never got to meet her, as they visit her grave – after she passed away at the age of 90, in 2017.
Meanwhile their father died in 1993, aged 82, and Davina reveals their parents had a ’30 or even 40 year affair’, and both lived in Dublin.
‘They must have really loved each other for it to go on for that amount of time’, they say, discovering they had 4 older sisters and 10 older brothers.
Seen left: Foundling Helen Ward as a young girl; Right: Foundling David McBride on a swing as a young boy
Pictured: Foundling Helen Ward as a young girl with her adoptive mother
Davina (seen with David) reveals their parents had a ’30 or even 40 year affair’ and both lived in Dublin
Speaking to This Morning hosts, Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield this morning, David explained how he first found out about his extraordinary past when he tried to get a birth certificate at the age of 15 to join the army.
He said: ‘I didn’t know much until I was about eight years old when I went to a family court and I found out I was going there to be adopted.
‘The information about me being a foundling though, I didn’t really know much until I was about 15 years of age. I went to get a birth certificate for joining the army and I couldn’t get hold of one and when I got hold of one, it said ‘on or about the 6th January 1962.’
He reveals his father explained the vague date of birth was because he was a foundling and David was told that he had been discovered on the 16th January that year in the front seat of a car in Dunmurray, on the outskirts of Belfast, in a red tartan shopping bag on a freezing cold night.
He said: ‘The lady who owned the car found me in the front seat. She took me into the house and put me on the table. She ran across the road to get a neighbour and then called the police. They took me to the hospital in Belfast.’
The distinctive red tartan bags that both David and Helen were left in by their mother; the pair say they appreciate how hard it must have been for her to keep babies born to a Catholic man in a time of deep sectarian conflict
Speaking on This Morning today, Helen Ward explained how her adoptive father had told her to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ when she became curious about her roots
The siblings, pictured with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, on This Morning today revealed how they were finally reunited as brother and sister after David got in touch with a researcher on Long Lost Family – who asked him to take a DNA test
David explained that his parents had had an illicit affair for almost 40 years – unable to be together because they were born into different religions
David’s sister Helen has a remarkably similar backstory – being found abandoned, this time on the other side of the Irish border in a telephone box in Dundalk, in a tartan bag on 11th March 1968.
She explains that while she always knew she was adopted, her curiosity about another possible family grew as she got older.
She told Holly and Phil: ‘My parents were very open from an early age. They told me with plenty of love and care that I was adopted.’
Helen’s daughter (left) and David’s daughter (right) bear a striking resemblance to each other
While her father told her to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ when she expressed at the age of 18 that she wanted to know more, she says she couldn’t rest, and by 2003 she was determined to find out her true origins.
We started one journey and now we are on another, getting to know each other and our family…
Finally, in 2003 and with three children of her own, Helen found the courage to visit an adoption centre in Drogheda in southern Ireland. But sadly her birth certificate had only the simple words ‘child found exposed’.
Then last year she took a DNA test and posted it on an online database in a last-ditch attempt to find a blood relative.
Within months, producers on Long Lost Family uploaded David’s DNA onto the same system and found he had a match for a full sister.
‘Finding Helen was one of the greatest gifts,’ says David. ‘When we sat down and started talking, the world around us didn’t exist.’
Helen holds up a picture of their late birth father next to David. Their father was a married protestant with 14 children in Dublin
David as a young boy (left). David learned a little about his background when he was 15 and applied to join the military, only to discover his birth certificate stated he was born ‘on or about 6 Jan’
After pursuing other genetic matches, researcher Ariel Bruce, a social worker on Long Lost Family, traced their parents after David got in touch saying he was keen to track down his birth family.
They learned their father was a shop manager from Dublin who died in 1993, while their mother had passed away in 2017.
Behind those stark facts lies a heartbreaking story. Their father was a married protestant with 14 children, but he had an affair with their mother, 17 years his junior and a Catholic.
That would have been scandalous in a time of huge sectarian conflict, so their mother gave her babies up.
The siblings admit it’s sad they never got to meet their birth mother, as they visit her grave – after she passed away at the age of 90, in 2017
The siblings have visited their late mother’s grave and expressed regret that she didn’t have any more children
Poignantly, she never married or had more children, and learning this left her children feeling huge compassion for her.
They’ve been to her grave, and spoken on the phone to three of their 14 half-siblings.
‘We started one journey,’ says David, ‘and now we are on another, getting to know each other and our family.’
Helen told Holly and Phil that it was ‘so fantastic that I met David first’ saying they now had the support of each other to meet their new family.
Long Lost Family Special: Born Without Trace is on 1 -2 June at 9pm on ITV