Foundlings, with a Catholic mother and Protestant father, discover each other after more than 50 years and find that sectarian disparity led to their mother abandoning them both.

An Irish brother and sister, discovered on either side of the Northern Ireland border, both abandoned by their Catholic mother were reunited by the TV show Long Lost Family in a tear-jerking amazing episode. Their parents a Catholic and a Protestant had had an affair for over 40 years.

Despite having the same parents, until last year Helen Ward and David McBride did not know they were brother and sister. The TV show Long Lost Family, using DNA testing reunited the brother and sister both abandoned by their mother over 50 years ago. 

In an emotional episode of the TV show, which aims to reunite close relatives after years of separation, two foundlings, abandoned as babies with no trace of their origins, were reunited having been found on either side of the Irish border, in Belfast and Dundalk.

“It would have been completely taboo… so they had no choice”– David #BornWithoutTrace #LongLostFamily

— Long Lost Family (@longlostfamily) June 1, 2020

In 1962, David was found in a tartan bag in a car on the outskirts of Belfast city, at Dunmurry, on a cold January morning. Then in 1968 Helen was abandoned and found, also in a tartan bag, on the other side of the Irish border, in Dundalk, County Louth. 

Both David and Helen have spent their lives searching for their birth parents but it was not until last year that DNA testing brought them together. 

After more than 50 years apart they were reunited last year on Long Lost Family. David said, "All these years without knowing it, we were walking two paths waiting to come together as one."

Helen added "It was overwhelming. I’d built a picture of who my parents might have been, but I’d never thought of siblings."

Thankfully both David and Helen had happy upbringings with their adoptive families. However, they both had a strong need to find their birth families.

David only discovered he was adopted when he was 15. On applying to join the military he discovered that his birth certificate said he was born "on or about 6 Jan". 

He said "‘I asked my father what that meant, and he told me all,’ he recalls. He was about 14 days old when he was found. 

"It meant for the first few weeks of my life someone fed me, kept me warm, loved me."

Read more: Irishman sent to Australia as child reunited with family he was told were dead

Despite his greatest efforts, David could not find any more information. He now lives in Birmingham with a wife, and three children and four grown-up daughters. He had no idea that his sister was on a similar journey.

Helen, similarly, didn't know the story surrounding her birth. 

"When I was 17 I asked my dad and he said, 'Let sleeping dogs lie.' But you can’t." Helen told the show. 

"My birth mum was always in the back of my mind, and the hardship of giving me up."

In 2003 and with three children of her own, Helen visited an adoption center in Drogheda, County Louth. Sadly, her birth certificate only displayed the words "child found exposed".

DNA testing

In 2019 Helen took a DNA test and posted the results to an online database in an attempt to locate any blood relative.  Within months, the producers at Long Long Family had uploaded David's DNA results to the same database. They discovered he had a sister. 

David, now 58, said the discovery was monumental. "Finding Helen was one of the greatest gifts.

"When we sat down and started talking, the world around us didn’t exist."

"It’s mind-blowing that the first foundling you meet is your own sister…” – David #BornWithoutTrace #LongLostFamily

— Long Lost Family (@longlostfamily) June 1, 2020

Researchers on the show also managed to find their parents. Sadly their father, a shop manager had died in Dublin in 1993. Their mother had also passed away in 2017. 

Catholic v Protestant scandal

Their parent's story was a heartbreaking one. Their father was a married Protestant with 14 children. He had had an affair with their mother, who was 17 years his junior. 

At the time, due to the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, their relationship would have been a scandal. It's believed that this is the reason their mother gave us both babies. 

Speaking on ITV's chat show, This Morning,  David said Our mother and father had an affair that lasted about 40 years.

"The fact that my mother became pregnant out of wedlock, there was real problems for both of them."

Sadly, their mother never married, nor did she have any more children. Upon learning this David and Helen felt great compassion for their lost mother. The brother and sister have now visited her grave and spoken to three of their half-siblings on their father's side by phone. 

"We started one journey," said David. "Now we are on another, getting to know each other and our family."

Read more: Millions more Irish birth, marriage and death records free online