Siblings Abandoned as Babies Over a Half-Century Ago Reunite: ‘A Special Relationship’

TIMEDecember 15, 2021

A brother and sister abandoned as babies, who found one another after a five-decade search, have discovered that a third baby left in a phone box also is their full sibling. The trio have since come together and forged an inseparable bond.

David McBride, 59, was abandoned in a shopping bag on the front seat of a car outside Belfast, Ireland, in January 1962. Helen Ward, 53, was left inside a phone box on the other side of the Irish border, in Dundalk, six years later. Despite actively searching for their birth parents, they didn’t realize their stories were connected until David took a DNA test in May 2019.

Helen had already taken one; they matched as full-blooded brother and sister, and met four months later in Carlingford, on the border.

“It was quite surreal—we bonded from the first moment,” David told The Epoch Times. “It’s as if we’ve known each other forever.

“To find out your sister has been through the same thing that you had gone through, it was sad, but it means your sister can understand you a lot better. It was like we’d known each other all our lives, to be quite truthful. We sat there for two or three hours, and we were oblivious to everything that was going on around us.”

Helen agreed.

“I found a brother, he found a sister; it was an incredible moment,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Helen Ward)

Helen brought a photo album. As she and David compared photos of their children, Helen claimed two of their daughters looked exactly alike.

As David and Helen had shared their reunion on the British television show “Long Lost Family,” unbeknown to them, another man’s daughter was also watching their story unfold on TV from Australia. The daughter noticed uncanny similarities between David and Helen’s story and her father, John Dowling’s.

A DNA test confirmed her suspicions: John, 56, was their sibling, too.

John had been abandoned in a phone box in Drogheda in May 1965, a date sandwiched between his siblings’ abandonments, yet nobody connected the dots. It transpired that all three babies were born to the same Roman Catholic mother and Protestant father. The couple had sustained a relationship in secret for almost 40 years, according to David.

David, Helen, and John—who all have families and children of their own—were raised in happy adoptive families and knew they were foundlings, but little else.

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Baby John, who was found abandoned in a phone box. (Courtesy of Helen Ward)
Epoch Times Photo
Helen as a child; she, too, was found abandoned in a phone box in March 1968. (Courtesy of Helen Ward)

The three siblings met for the first time in April in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. John said it was “just so exciting” to look into his siblings’ faces and spot familiar traits.

“We talked about the situations that we were all found in,” John explained. “I know it took half a century. It’s just an unbelievable story that the three of us are together, after all that time.”

David and Helen were equally ecstatic to learn of the third sibling. At their first meeting, David was “over the moon,” claiming, “We’ve all lived our lives for quite a considerable period of time, thinking we’re the only one.”

After the heightened emotions of the first hugs, the shock, and the sheer elation, Helen recalls sitting back and absorbing the fact that she was sitting with true biological brothers for the very first time. The trio soon got to talking about the circumstances of their abandonment.

Helen said that she always wanted to find her family, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“I’m glad that I took that leap of faith to take that journey because it’s been an amazing result,” she said.

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David was abandoned in a shopping bag in a front seat of a car in January 1962. (Courtesy of Helen Ward)

David said that they still don’t know why they were abandoned. Their mother was from the southwest coast of Ireland and she came to Dublin when she was quite young, and their father lived in Dublin.

“We didn’t find much out about them, other than that they both passed away,” he added. “Sadly, we were unable to meet them to get some answers.”

All three siblings refrain from judging their birth parents, agreeing that they did the best they could under the circumstances. Yet all three also hope to connect with more family members, to add details to their story.

“I would like to try to meet as many people that both our mother and father had relationships with, friendships with, so that maybe they could give us some insight into the past,” said Helen. David added, “There have been family members who have assisted us, but there are other family members who know a lot more about our parents, and it’d be helpful for them to come forward.”

Epoch Times Photo
(L–R) John, 57, with his sister, Helen, 53, and brother, David, 59. (Courtesy of Helen Ward)

David is a lawyer living in England’s West Midlands. Helen is a self-employed florist working in County Dublin. John works as a truck driver living in County Kilkenny. The trio sees one another whenever they can and chat on Zoom in between.

Helen wishes that their story will give hope to those going forward on their journeys to find their identity. “Our story is so unique,” she said. “You could not make this story up, even if you tried. Truth is stranger than fiction!”

Her brothers agree, encouraging others to chase for their own answers.

John said, “I know all situations are different, and might not turn out to be as good as our situation, but unless you try you’ll never know.” Added his brother, “If you believe in your dreams, your dreams can come true.”

Next for the trio, said Helen, is writing a book together to share more of their extraordinary experience with the world.

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Louise Bevan
Louise Bevan is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.