Northern Ireland

Sisters have emotional first meeting after 64 years apart

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Media captionThe sisters had an emotional first meeting at Dublin Airport

Two sisters living separate lives on opposite sides of the world have had an emotional first meeting after 64 years apart.

Lesley Fagan, 64, who lives in Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh, met her sister Joan Lesley Crawford Murray, at Dublin Airport after she arrived from Australia last week.

She had spent almost 28 years trying to track her down.

Joan is staying with Lesley for three weeks to spend some time together.

She described the experience of meeting her sister as "absolutely amazing".

"I just felt like I was going to burst," she said.

"All my life I was an only child, all Lesley's life she was an only child, we just had this immediate connection, there is just no other way to describe it."

Lesley, who is originally from Lancashire, said it felt like a miracle and she had not slept since meeting her sister.

Devout

She began her search for Joan in 1989 after her mother told her she had a half sister.

She found her in October 2015 when she had been on the verge of giving up.

Lesley and Joan's mother belonged to a devout Catholic family.

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Media captionBoth women thought for years that they had no brothers or sisters, as Julian Fowler reports

Their mother decided to hide her pregnancy from her father - Lesley's grandfather - by putting the child into a Catholic mother-and-babies home in Manchester in 1948.

After six weeks she had to sign documents to authorise the adoption.

"Although my mum was not a teenager at the time, she was one of six girls who lived with their father because their mother, my grandmother, had passed away some time ago," Lesley told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster.

"They were from a really, really, strict Catholic community, my mum desperately wanted to keep the baby.

"Another sister said it would bring shame upon the family and that it would kill my granddad."

Appeal

When the nun left the room at the mother and baby home, her mother saw the name and address of the prospective parents and she never forgot, telling Lesley the details 40 years later.

With that information, Lesley began looking for her sister.

"That was the key, that was my key," she added.

Image copyright Dublin Gazette Newspapers
Image caption The sisters' mother caught a glance at the name and address of baby Joan's adoptive parents and held onto that memory for 50 years

"Just before my mum had to sign the papers she had a look on the desk where she was sat and she found the names of the adoptive parents and also the exact address where they lived and she kept that with her for 50 years or so.

"How she remembered that and never forgot, I just don't know, but that was unbelievable."

Lesley said she had made several attempts over the years to trace her sister, "but never gave up".

She eventually made an appeal on Facebook that was picked up by two genealogists - Jill Harrington in the UK and Terri O'Neill in Australia.

Terri said she could help and tracked Joan down shortly afterwards, enabling last week's emotional meeting.

Joan said her daughter had been contacted via Facebook and described the night she was told about her sister.

'Emotional'

"My daughter said 'mum I have got to come over, I have got something to tell you'," she added.

"I was terribly worried, because she was so stressed and she said 'mum, do you know that you are adopted?'

"My parents had never told me, but I did find a letter when I was a little girl.

"It was enormous and it was enormous for my daughter as well.

"I was in tears, but then she said wait mum there is more, did you know you have a sister?'.

"It was very emotional."