A story about a wonderful man reuniting with his family after 82 years apart…
Today is Paddy Delaney’s 83rd birthday. It is the first one in which people he is related to will send him cards and presents. Our quest was to give him peace by finding a grave; with a lot of luck and some amazing selfless people, we had found him a family.
“I have never investigated anything that is 80 years old before, but we will give it a go.”
As the January 2021 lockdown was commencing in the UK and Ireland, John Claire reached out to Lost Boys Detective Agency with a quest. Knowing that an important part of our business model was using our skills, experience and network to help people who have no one else to turn to, John asked if we had time to help him. John had been involved in the security industry for years and would normally have been protecting some of the planet’s most high-profile musical acts on their world tours, but Covid had brought this to a temporary halt. However, John immediately saw this time as an opportunity to help a friend and complete what had seemed like an impossible task five years ago. John had met Paddy Delaney at Croke Park when he was running the security at a stadium where Paddy had been a season ticket holder. John had noticed Paddy, then in his 70’s, leaving early to avoid the crowds each week. Very much in keeping with who John is, he made sure that Paddy could stay until the end of the game and be escorted home by security at the final whistle. It turns out Paddy is a pretty well-known character in Dublin – if you have ever wandered down Grafton Street, there is a high probability that Paddy may have run into you on his mobility scooter.
As John and Paddy got to know each other, Paddy told him how he had lived a lot of his life alone, had never met anyone he was biologically related to and knew nothing of his past. Paddy said that his greatest wish was to find his mother’s grave and lay flowers on it. John and Paddy had only a birth certificate and a hospital admissions slip from his birth with the name of his mother – Mary Delaney. They reached out to the Irish state and church, but neither could provide any further information. For several years they were stuck, until, grounded by Covid and lockdown, John decided to try again.
Lost Boys Detective Agency is a Crisis Management and Investigations company and, although we had previously helped find lost family members, our usual work relates to managing risk for high-net-worth and high-profile people. However, as we had very much set up the business to help people who have nowhere else to turn, such as the miscarriage of justice cases we work on, we knew we had to give it a go. We had no experience of investigating cases from such a long time ago or using genealogy, so we reached out for help to our established network and to LinkedIn members.
To start the quest, we wrote to the address on Paddy’s birth certificate and to the surrounding houses; we also arranged for Paddy to be DNA tested. The people who lived around the address were so wonderful and immediately began to fill in gaps about the family who they knew had lived at the address from around the time of Paddy’s birth to the late 80’s. At the same time, we found Paddy’s baptism certificate at the local church and, with the help of our increasing team of experts volunteering their time, we began the search for Mary Delaney. In March 2021, we hit lucky and Paddy’s DNA was linked to a man in Spain. He was able to tell us that Mary Delaney was the sister of his grandfather and put us in contact with his family, most of whom still lived in Ireland. This was a life-changing moment for Paddy Delaney: Paddy had a family for the first time in his life. At his first Covid vaccination Paddy had been asked about his family and replied he did not have one; by his second vaccination Paddy could talk about the family who were now very much part of his life. We had found his cousins, several of whom, as it turned out, looked and behaved exactly like him.
His new family was able to tell him that his mother had moved to London and, although they had never known about Paddy, several members believed Mary Delaney had a daughter who had visited them in Ireland as a child. At around this time we managed to find that Mary Delaney had died in London in the early 90’s and use this information to locate her grave. Initially, we waited in the hope that the world would open enough for Paddy to travel as soon as he was double vaccinated; however, because of his age, at the start of the summer we made the decision that we needed to lay the flowers on his behalf. So, Paddy wrote a letter to the mother he had never met, and we placed the card and flowers that Paddy had chosen on her grave. We had completed our quest, but actually the best was yet to come.
The family believed that Paddy’s sister was called Maureen and remembered her visiting them in Ireland as a child. Sadly, they had no contact with her and knew nothing more about where she was. We believed that Paddy’s sister was likely to be in her late 70’s or early 80’s and knew time may be against us, if she was indeed still alive. It was at this point that Holly Peters, who was doing our genealogy, made a breakthrough discovery and found someone she believed was likely to be Maureen. We confirmed that she was still alive and living in southern England. Not knowing what health she was in and still in the middle of a pandemic, we took advice on how best to approach her. Because of their collective age, we made the decision for Paddy’s family to write to her explaining Paddy’s story and our belief that she was Paddy’s sister.
One Tuesday in early August Maureen received the letter; within an hour she had picked up the phone and called the family. Maureen did not know that Paddy, four years her senior, existed, but she knew that her mother had kept secrets from her about her life in Ireland. Because of this, Maureen was not totally surprised to find out at the age of 78 that she had a brother. She and Paddy spoke over Zoom that night and, within two days, Maureen had booked her own flights to Ireland. So, Paddy and Maureen met at Dublin airport in late August 2021 and spent a wonderful week together, as Maureen told him about her childhood and their mother. This quest brought so much more than we expected: not only had we found his mother’s grave, but Paddy also found a real family for the first time in his life.
(John, Paddy and Maureen)
Paddy’s story had gained the attention of the media and had been covered in the Sunday papers. Paddy and John had appeared on national radio when we had found his mother’s grave and then again, due to popular demand, he returned with Maureen. To hear more about this story:
https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/21993119/ & https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/21996731/
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