December 8, 2008
December 6, 2008
Abandoned child finds mother after 68 years
Christina Hammond, abandoned in a Tipperary orphanage at the age of 4,
has been reunited with her mother after 68 years
It sounds like a classic tear-jerker with an unlikely happy ending: a
72-year-old woman left in an orphanage in Co Tipperary at the age of
four finally traces her 92-year-old mother after searching for 68
But the improbable story of how Christina Hammond was finally reunited
with her mother is true; even if the pensioner who grew up in an
orphanage in Dundrum, Co Tipperary, and a “workhouse laundry” in
Athlone, Co Westmeath, still struggles to believe it herself.
When Hammond was old enough to leave the laundry, where she had been
living in the early 1950s, she was told by the nuns that her mother
had been sent to England by her family and died during the blitz.
But last month Hammond traced the woman who gave her up 68 years
earlier after a message on an internet forum was spotted by her half-
brother’s wife in New York. “Despite what I’d been told by the nuns, I
always felt that my mother might be out there somewhere,” she said. “I
never had the money to hire someone to trace her and I didn’t know
where to begin myself.”
After leaving the laundry, Hammond worked at Temple Street childrens’
hospital in Dublin before moving to England with her Irish husband in
1957. They had nine children, seven of whom are still alive.
She first discovered that her mother might be alive 10 years ago, when
she was contacted by Brenda Glasby, a half-sister, who was adopted in
the early 1940s and was searching for her mother.
“It was a complete shock. She had been trying to find her mother but
found me instead through records held by the nuns,” Hammond said.
“Together we decided that we would try again to find our mother.”
Using local records in Ireland, Anna Railton, Hammond’s daughter,
traced her grandmother as far as Hayling Island in Hampshire, England,
and then hit a dead end. Railton said: “I think she was sent to
Hayling Island during the war but didn’t stay long. I searched for a
death certificate in England but couldn’t find one, so our suspicions
that she was still alive somewhere grew.”
Railton then turned to online bulletin boards that connect adopted
children with their biological parents. “I left dozens of messages but
nothing ever came of it. Then my niece, Charlene Naylor, discovered a
forum for children that had been left in Irish orphanages. I left a
message, not expecting to hear anything back,” she said.
Meanwhile in New York state, Josephine Hollamby, 92, told her son
Alan, 60, that when she was a young woman she had been forced to give
up two children because she was unmarried when she gave birth to them.
Hollamby and his wife searched the internet for clues to his two Irish
half-sisters and eventually stumbled on the message left by Railton’s
niece. “It was complete chance that we were both looking for each
other at the same time,” Railton said.
Hammond, who now lives in Rotherham, agreed to travel to New York to
meet Hollamby and her two sons Alan and Douglas. “I was worried that
it might not be true or that it might not work out well. But when I
stepped off the plane and met Alan Hollamby, he said, ‘You look just
like my mother did 20 years ago’. It was unbelievable,” she said.
The moment she met her mother was bittersweet for Hammond. “She is
suffering from the early stages of dementia and at first she was
confused, but her eyes lit up when she realised I was the little girl
that she’d had taken away from her,” she said.
The pair spent a week together, during which Hammond tried to piece
together the early years of her life. The 72-year-old solved one
mystery: why she had not been sent to an orphanage until the age of
Hammond discovered that her mother had been unmarried when she had
given birth to her, but had been allowed to keep her child for four
years because of Hammond’s poor health as a baby.
“I would have been given away a lot earlier but I developed TB and it
was decided that I stood a better chance of surviving by staying with
my mother. It must have been very hard for her [Hollamby] because she
had built up a bond with me over four years,” she said.
Hammond now hopes to return at Easter to see her mother and find out
more about her family history. “Her health isn’t great now, so I want
to go back as soon as I can. I don’t want to have searched for her all
my life only for her to die before I get to see her again,” she said.
Hammond’s search would have been made easier had her mother signed up
with the Irish National Adoption Contact Preference Register, held by
the Adoption Authority of Ireland. For those who cannot find their
lost child or parent on the register, the process can be lengthy.
The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, a voluntary group, report that
it can take up to five years for an appointment with a social worker,
the first step in tracking down an adopted child or biological parent,
suggesting that Hammond was fortunate to trace her mother.
“We are appalled that parents and their adult children are sometimes
having to wait as long as three to five years after already enduring
such a long time apart. There have been occasions when one of the
parties to a reunion has died while awaiting their turn on the list,
and it has been enormously distressing for the others to endure this