True Life: My Long-Lost Brother Was My Neighbour; It Took 50 Long Years before Rose Humphries, 64, Was Reunited with Her Brother Bill - Only for Them to Discover They Lived a Mile Apart

Article excerpt


As Rose Humphries set eyes on the stranger standing on her front doorstep, she broke down in tears. "There was no mistaking he was my brother - he looked just like me," says Rose as she recalls the day in April 2003 when she met Bill Wright, 70, the brother she never knew existed.

"He wrapped me in a big hug and said he'd been searching for me all his life. It was lovely."

It's a heart-warming end to a story which started in a three-bedroom terraced house in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, back in 1940.

That was the year Ann Wright died of pneumonia, leaving behind her Royal Reserves husband, Jim, and their eight children. Unable to cope alone, Jim made the heartbreaking decision to find his children new homes.

"I was six years old when Mum passed away," remembers Bill, who's now retired. "I was sent to live with my grandma, Annie Harrington. But I was never told where my four sisters and three brothers went to live.

"We were at war, it was a confusing time. But there wasn't a day that passed when I didn't wonder where they were and how they were doing."

All the children had been adopted by local families. At just six months, Rosemary was youngest. She found a home with Jack and Evelyn Barnes.

"I had a wonderful childhood, full of love. But I have to admit I always felt like a chunk of my life was missing," says Rose, a part-time cleaner.

"My parents never told me I was adopted. But when I was 10 a child at school blurted out the truth. I ran home and quizzed Mum. She told me not to be silly but, after that, I often wondered if it could be true.

"I was an only child and longed for a house full of brothers and sisters. So the idea that I might have a secret family was exciting. I'd look in the mirror and imagine if I had sisters with my blonde curls, or an older brother who'd look out for me. But, not wanting to hurt my parents, I never mentioned it."

Little did she know, Bill was already trying to reunite the family. With his grandma's help, he'd met Jimmy, Ben, Hilda, Brenda, Jean and Alan by the time he was 16. But no-one knew what had happened to Rose.

Aged 18, Rose married and gave birth to a daughter, Jane. But it was another 10 years before her adopted father finally told her the truth.

"I'll never forget it," she recalls. "It was two months after we'd lost Mum to cancer. I was visiting Dad one afternoon and out of the blue I asked him if I was adopted. I hadn't planned to say it. It just popped out.

"When he said it was true I wasn't angry or sad, even shocked. As Dad handed me my adoption forms and birth certificate I felt quite satisfied. I'd always known, deep down."

Although Rose's dad was able to tell her that her birth mum had died, he didn`t know whether she had brothers or sisters.

"My parents' names were on my birth certificate, along with their address at the time I was given up," she says. "But Dad confessed he'd tried to trace my real family after I'd quizzed Mum about being adopted. But my birth father no longer lived at the address."

Overwhelmed by the task of searching, mixed with a tinge of fear of what she might find if she did, Rose decided not to track down her family.

After divorcing Jane's dad in the late 1970s, Rose moved back with her own dad. …