In­cred­i­ble story of wo­man’s life jour­ney aired on TV

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

A DOC­U­MEN­TARY chart­ing the jour­ney of a Spean Bridge wo­man’s life from a Dublin mother to adop­tion in Lochaber and her quest to find her half sis­ter has aired on tele­vi­sion.

The in­cred­i­ble story of Gla­dys John­ston, which has been kept hid­den away for more than 30 years, has fi­nally come to light in an emo­tional BBC Alba pro­gramme.

Gla­dys, who was born in a Dublin sub­urb in 1936 to a young un­mar­ried Ir­ish wo­man spent three years in the protes­tant or­phan­age Bethany Home be­fore she was adopted by Mary and Dun­can Cameron of Achar­a­cle in 1939.

Gla­dys dis­cov­ered she was adopted at the age of 12 and while the news ini­tially up­set her she de­cided it would be best to for­get about it and move on.

But fol­low­ing the death of her adop­tive par­ents, she took on the daunt­ing task of search­ing for her birth mother.

Af­ter track­ing down her birth cer­tifi­cate, which re­vealed she was born Gla­dys Ma­bel to Dorothy Pat­ton or Mur­phy, Gla­dys also dis­cov­ered her mother had gone on to have a sec­ond child, who, re­mark­ably, was also named Gla­dys.

On April 1, 1986, Gla­dys met her sis­ter, Gla­dys – ‘Glad’ as she is known – for the first time.

Speak­ing of her first phonecall with Gla­dys, Glad said: ‘ Mum called me Gla­dys be­cause she was read­ing a book at the time and the hero­ine’s name was Gla­dys.’

Gla­dys said: ‘Well she must have been read­ing that book for a heck of a long time.’

Through talk­ing to Glad, Gla­dys also dis­cov­ered that she knew some of her brother-in-law’s fam­ily who were from Fort Wil­liam.

Glad re­calls how her mother was of­ten sad and she could never un­der­stand why.

‘She took the se­cret of me to her grave. When I walk down the street and see peo­ple with a child about that age, I think, God, it must have been so hard for my mother to give up her three-yearold child,’ said Gla­dys.

Gla­dys be­lieves her mother called her sec­ond daugh­ter by the same name as her own pri­vate way of re­mem­ber­ing her – she could say her name ev­ery day. Hav­ing found her sis­ter, Gla­dys gave up on her search into her birth mother, but 30 years later de­cided to look into it again.

She ex­plained: ‘I have a very quizzi­cal mind and I couldn’t stop un­til I had all the an­swers.’

Dur­ing the mak­ing of the pro­gramme Gla­dys is taken back to Ire­land where she re­traces her child­hood.

Gla­dys, who was a cor­re­spon­dent for The Oban Times for more than 40 years, said: ‘I feel that I am a sur­vivor be­cause the year I was born lots of chil­dren died in Bethany Home from ne­glect.

‘This is why the whole story is so im­por­tant to me, be­cause lots of peo­ple will now re­alise what hap­pened in those days – how cruel it was for chil­dren in homes – nowa­days it’s so much eas­ier.’

Gla­dys watched the pro­gramme with her fam­ily and friends on Hog­manay, say­ing it was ‘ very emo­tional.

She added: ‘My fam­ily watched it and they thought it was ex­cel­lent.’

Speak­ing to The Oban Times, Gla­dys said she has had a lot of feed­back from peo­ple in the street and her phone has ‘rung off the hook’.

‘I find it very in­ter­est­ing the way peo­ple have re­sponded to it. I feel like I am giv­ing peo­ple in­spi­ra­tion to find their roots, maybe I am open­ing a book for oth­ers,’ she said.

‘It’s nice that peo­ple are tak­ing an in­ter­est in my story and think­ing if she can do it then so can I.’

Gla­dys’ daugh­ter Fiona said: ‘It was re­ally lovely to watch and so good that mum got peace of mind.’

The doc­u­men­tary ex­plores Gla­dys’ re­la­tions fur­ther down the line as she tries to trace her great grand­mother, grand­mother and grand­fa­ther, and al­though Gla­dys still doesn’t know who her bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther was, she said she will con­tinue to search.

Gla­dys is on BBC iPlayer and will be re­peated on BBC Alba to­mor­row (Jan­uary 6) at 10pm.

It was re­ally lovely to watch

Gla­dys, left, with her half sis­ter who is also called Gla­dys, but known as Glad, when the pair were film­ing for the BBC Alba doc­u­men­tary. The half sis­ters met for the first time on April 1, 1986 af­ter Gla­dys tracked down her mother’s birth cer­tifi­cate and found she had gone on to have an­other child. They be­lieve they were named af­ter the hero­ine in a book their mother was read­ing at the time.

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