Daughter of Trim woman abandoned in garden as a baby pens book to share amazing story
The daughter of a Trim woman who was found abandoned in a garden as a baby and died without knowing her true identity says she penned a book about her life to finally share her mother's story.
'A Secret No More' documents the life of Linda Buckley's mother Tina McClaughry who was just a few days old when she was discovered abandoned in a garden wrapped in a blanket in Gillingham in Kent in the UK. Linda says her mother who was sworn to secrecy about her adoption was tormented throughout her life desperate to find her biological family and the truth about where she came from.
After a gruelling six and a half year search, following the death of her mother in 2014 Linda and her sisters finally found out where her mother came from via DNA testing.
The Trim author admits being heartbroken that her mother didn't get the answers she so desperately wanted in her lifetime and wants to share the story she never got to tell.
She also wants to use the opportunity for help in tracing a Navan woman who contacted the family over thirty years ago claiming to be their long-lost aunt.
"Mum always said one of the loneliest feelings in the world was living like somebody's little secret. She was forced into secrecy her entire life and nobody would help her," said Linda.
"She died in 2014 surrounded by myself and my sisters and my dad, the only family she ever knew.
"One of the reasons I wanted to write the book was to get my mum's story out there but to also raise awareness of the struggles of an adoptee but particularly foundling babies trying to access information about their birth."
It was both modern technology and the basics of genetics that joined the missing dots Tina had been trying to link for most of her life.
"My mother was found in a garden; no parents were ever found. This meant the courts had to give her a name, they gave her a date of birth and then placed her for adoption.
"I had nothing to link mum to her bloodline. Throughout my search I had one question, how can anyone be born without a trace? But as long as you carry your parent's DNA the answers are right there inside you.
"So in fact all I had was a bit of spit in a tube and in a world of billions, I found them."
Through their vigorous search for answers Linda and her sisters, Christine Keane and Claire Rafferty found four cousins across the world and fulfilled their mother's life long wish to unearth her parent's identities.
Tina only found out the truth about her birth when a stranger approached her at a Christmas choir rehearsal and told the shocked teenager that she was adopted as Linda explains.
"My mum had no idea about any of this. She was very upset and ran home, when she confronted her mother, she confirmed it was true but forbade my mum from ever discussing it with anyone.
"She never spoke about the adoption, but it destroyed her."
The family moved to Ireland from the UK in 1979 where Tina became well known as an animal activist and opened a puppy resource centre in Boyerstown for many years. During her time in England, she worked as a social worker and an interpreter for the deaf. Moving to Ireland was meant to be a fresh start for Tina but her past soon caught up with her according to Linda.
"When I was teenager, mum got a call from somebody in Navan telling her that she was her sister.
I never really knew what happened, but my mum met her and heard her story, but I don't know what happened in the meeting, she wouldn't talk about it.
"Whatever happened in that meeting spurred mum on to search again.
"I often wonder about this woman; I've tried to find her but keep coming to a dead end. I'd love to make contact with her again."
At one point, Tina believed she had found her birth certificate and even changed her name by Deed pole but later she heartbreakingly discovered that she had got it wrong.
She had originally been given a name and date of birth by the courts after she was abandoned just days old outside an English hospital.
"My mother had a habit of making things fit. She was tired of asking questions, she was tired of searching. She craved a mother's love because she never had that with her own mother. She craved biological family, she wanted to be like everyone else.
"It was so sad to see how tormented she was over it.
"Eventually she had to admit to herself that she was probably wrong, but she was too tired to go searching again.
"Afterwards mum's health declined, she couldn't handle it anymore. She suffered with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. She suffered with early on set Dementia and we believe it was the stress of everything, everything just collapsed around her and at her age she just wasn't able for it anymore."
Sadly, Linda's father Neville died just 17 months later. A poignant moment reflecting at her parent's graveside made her realise she couldn't give up on her mother's search.
"I remember looking at her gravestone and seeing the name Tina and I thought her name was so important to her and she lived to be 75 years and she died still not knowing who she was. So, I made a promise to mum that I would search, and I would find her family."
Through liaising with government bodies in the UK and Ireland, Linda made headway. "We found out our mum’s name was Christine E Barnes, born on May 31, 1939.
“It was the name given to her by the courts after she was found.
There was no information on Tina's parents which spurred Linda on to find out why.
"Someone suggested to me on a facebook forum for adoptees that my mother could have been a foundling baby, so I contacted the Foundling Hospital established by the Thomas Coram Trust who have records of all of the children cared for there," she said.
"They couldn't find my mother's name, but they found news articles about her from the time of her birth. They were two little clippings, the only physical evidence of Christine E Barnes, a baby girl, found in a garden at just days old, on 3rd June 1939.
"It was the strangest thing reading them, but they literally were the only two bits of paperwork available from her birth."
The loving daughter's search stalled from there, but it was then they discovered, the answers always lay inside of them and traced her mother's relations via Ancestry DNA testing.
"I found my mum's biological family and was told her parents, Rebecca and William Sheward lived on the road behind where she was found on Barnsole Road.
"I have made contact with my cousins, one in Kent, two in America and one in Australia and they have been amazing."
"I always assumed my mum's mother was single, the father may not have known she was pregnant, I may never find her. To find both was a shock and to find they were both married was an even bigger surprise.
"We don't know why they abandoned her and it's not for us to judge.
"My grandfather was in the army and mum was born in May 1939 just months before war broke out, they knew that the war was happening and he would be called up and he didn't have much money, there was a lot poverty. They already had two young children when my mum was born.
"My cousin told us that they believed that mum's parents had two still born babies between 1936 and 1941.
"They chose to tell people that the babies were still born because they couldn't bring themselves to go to the authorities because a married couple was supposed to keep their child.
"We found out that a man we believe was mum's dad rang the hospital to say a baby had been left in a nearby garden, so they made sure she was found, they did care. In the meantime, she had been discovered by another man.
Linda hopes the book will encourage other adoptees not to give up on the search for their identify however hard it may be.
"When I discovered my mum was a foundling, I had no bloodline to link her, I had nothing," said Linda. Her name and date of birth were given by the court. It really was a needle in a haystack. I want to give hope to people out there on a similar journey that it is possible, don't give up."