Northern Ireland

Bethany Home survivor meets elderly brother for the first time

Paul Graham and Rodney Whittaker Image copyright Paul Graham
Image caption Paul Graham, 80, (right) met his brother Rodney Whittaker, 75, for the first time on Saturday

A survivor of an Irish mother and baby home has said he is "at peace with the world" after meeting his elderly brother for the first time.

Paul Graham, 80, travelled to London from Australia to meet his half brother Rodney Whittaker, 75, on Saturday.

He said meeting his first blood relative was almost indescribable.

Mr Graham spent his early years at the Bethany Home in Dublin, which was a place for unmarried Protestant mothers and their children.

"I held his hand for nearly half an hour. It was like holding the hand of the one you love," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday News.

"He turned around and smiled at me, it broke my heart.

"We just connected and that was just wonderful. I always wanted to belong."

"I smiled, he smiled"

Mr Graham was adopted by a wealthy family in Belfast in 1944, but ran away from his home at the age of 14 to join the Royal Marines. He later emigrated to Australia with his young family.

He only recently realised he had a brother after discovering Mr Whittaker's signature on his mother's death certificate.

He admitted he was anxious on his way to meet as Mr Whittaker suffers from severe dementia, but was delighted he knew "exactly who I was".

"I can't really describe how I felt. I could feel my strength and his strength getting together. When I smiled, he smiled," he said.

He said the meeting allowed him to forgive his mother, from Castlederg in County Tyrone, for leaving him as an infant in Bethany Home, which closed in the 1960s.

He said he grew up believing his mother was a bad person but had now found happiness after hearing stories about her kindness from his extended family during Saturday's meeting.

Image copyright Graham family
Image caption Paul Graham as a child

Mr Whittaker's wife Pat said she believed her husband had taken "quiet satisfaction" from the successful meeting.

Despite his poor health, she said he appeared to recognise Mr Graham who he has become acquainted with through a series of online conversations.

"This may be the last time they meet and seeing them together was good," she said.

Mr Graham previously told BBC News NI about his traumatic childhood, which included two failed adoptions after being "farmed out" from Bethany Home to a foster mother who was looking after 15 other babies at the same time.

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