'It is like a modern day miracle that is never ending'
The amazing story of a baby found abandoned in a Drogheda phone kiosk in 1965 took another dramatic twist at the weekend when the baby, now aged 56, appeared for the first time on television with his brother and sister who were also abandoned as babies.
John Dowling was just a few days old when he was found by Drogheda journalist Paul Murphy and his friend Pat Bailey, both members of Blessed Oliver Plunkett Drama Group, at Laurence Street on their way home from a John B Keane play rehearsal. John was adopted and disappeared from the two men’s lives until 2013 when he contacted Paul in an attempt to trace his birth mother.
Paul was able to reunite John with the Garda who came to the scene of the find in May 1965, now deceased John Hannigan and the nurse who cared for him in the Lourdes Maternity Hospital, Nancy McDonnell. Although John was not successful in tracing his mother on that occasion, he had always kept her in mind and would not give up his battle to find her.
There are many twists and turns to this very human story. Separately, two other babies had been abandoned – David McBride was found in the front seat of a car parked in a quiet residential area of Dunmurray, Belfast in 1962, and Helen Ward was found in a telephone kiosk at Ladywell, Dundalk by truck driver Donal Boyle in 1968.
David and Helen had been involved in media appeals in an attempt to find out how they came to be abandoned. In June last year their stories were told in a special edition of ITV documentary Long Lost Family presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell which revealed the extraordinary news that David and Helen are full siblings. Both were adopted by loving parents.
John Dowling’s daughter, Donna, who lives in Australia, prompted her dad to lodge his DNA with a database and just a few months ago John found out that he was a full sibling of David and Helen.
Their emotional story was partly revealed when the three appeared on Friday night’s Late Late Show. Just an hour before the show, Paul Murphy met up with them at the Clayton Hotel in Ballsbridge. “John and myself have been firm friends since he came ‘back’ to Drogheda in 2013. That, too, was an amazing journey for both of us. There are so many stunning aspects to this story. Myself and Pat Bailey were just the instruments in his discovery in that phone box in 1965 but John himself never gave up hope that he would eventually trace his birth mother. Sadly, she passed away aged 90 in 2017 without meeting him, or his brother and sister”.
Paul Murphy said this week “Meeting Helen and David for the first time was another intensely emotional moment for me, similar to the moment I met John in the Westcourt Hotel in 2013. It is like a modern day miracle that is never ending.
“Of course, I have a special bond with John. As I have told him often enough, my own two dear brothers John and Jim are deceased and I look at John Dowling now as another brother”.
David is a lawyer living in England, Helen lives in Co Meath and John lives in the south of the country.
ITV’s ‘Long Lost Families’ airs tonight at 9pm.