LOUGHRAN: Wrapped up in red, tartan bags ... a mystery solved for Helen, David

Saturday June 06 2020
Hellen and David

The stigma of illegitimacy and the religious divide sealed David’s and Helen’s fates. PHOTO COURTESY OF ITV


Foundling is the sort of word you would associate with Charles Dickens – a tiny baby found on someone’s doorstep, abandoned by its mother.

But that was years and years ago. It couldn’t happen now. Could it?

In a stranger’s parked car in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1962, a baby boy was found wrapped in a blue blanket inside a red-tartan bag. There was no indication of his origins and he was adopted by loving step-parents, given the name David and brought up in the Protestant faith.

Six years later, in Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland, just across the border from Belfast, a baby girl was found in a telephone box. She was adopted by loving step-parents, given the name Helen and brought up a Catholic.

As they grew to adulthood, these two foundlings, unaware of each other, sought desperately to discover their origins. Who were their mothers? Why were they abandoned? Their researches yielded no results until one day a lorry driver responded to a public appeal by Helen. He was the man who had found her in the telephone box and he added one intriguing detail – she had been wrapped in a blanket inside a red, tartan bag.

Independent Television, makers of the programme Long Lost Family, learned about the two tartan bags and persuaded David and Helen to provide DNA samples for investigation. The result: David and Helen were brother and sister.


It is a good guess that the revelation, broadcast in the programme last week, caused more than a few tears in a nation where many people are missing their loved ones because of the coronavirus.

Further revelations followed. Helen and David were the children of a long, extra-marital affair. Their father, a Protestant, was married with 14 children. Their mother was his girlfriend, a Catholic from County Kerry in Ireland who remained unmarried. Both, however, were now dead, the father in 1993 and the mother in 2017.

The stigma of illegitimacy and the religious divide sealed David’s and Helen’s fates. But at least they now had some answers, even if mysteries remained and some wounds could not be healed.

Said Helen, “I now know who I am.” David said, “I can move on with my life.”

* * *

A poll by the Catholic aid agency CAFOD has found that the most popular hymn that inspires hope is “How Great Thou Art”.

But the chances of its being heard in a church any time soon are negligible.

It is more than two months since churches, mosques, synagogues and temples were closed, and faith leaders are pressing for a reopening, with appropriate social distancing. They point out that business such as open-air markets and garden centres are the latest to benefit from relaxed relaxation of some rulings.

However, hymns, it seems, could be a problem.

Congregational singing is common to most religions, particularly Christian denominations. But Government minister Robert Jenrick warned that what worried officials was exhalation.

Churches in Germany have reopened but singing is banned because of fears that infected droplets from people’s mouths could remain in the air for longer and travel further.

* * *

If your idea of the archetypal British judge is an elderly man wearing a wig and a black gown, think again.

The newest admission to the high ranks of the judiciary is Deputy District Judge Raffia Arshad and she wears a gold-speckled hijab.

Judge Arshad, from Burton-on-Trent, said she had “led the way for Muslim women to succeed in the law. It’s taken a while to get here, but I am so pleased.”

The first of her family to go to university, she said she had “broken the stereotype of what most people imagine judges look like.”

A married mother of three, Judge Arshad has practised family law for more than 17 years.

* * *

What is the most iconic fashion statement of recent years? The Miniskirt!

Two thousand people were asked by Samsung to name the top ten fashions of recent years.

Next in order came the little black dress, hot pants, denim jackets, platform shoes, flared trousers, leather bikers’ jackets, shoulder pads, knee-high boots and skinny jeans.

So now you know.

* * *

A worldwide survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?” The survey was a huge failure. In Eastern Europe they didn’t know what “honest” meant. In China they didn’t know what “opinion” meant. In Western Europe they didn’t know what “shortage” meant. And in the United States, they didn’t know what "the rest of the world” meant.

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