'Everything in the room disappeared but the two of us' - Meeting a long-lost sibling

It has come to light that there may be a fourth sibling out there who was found in similar circumstances in Newry
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.47 19 Jan 2024

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'Everything in the room disapp...

'Everything in the room disappeared but the two of us' - Meeting a long-lost sibling

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.47 19 Jan 2024

Share this article

A brother and sister who did not know about each other until they took a DNA test have said meeting for the first time was like 'chatting to an old friend'.

Helen Ward and David McBride were adopted and grew up without knowing each other.

In 2020, they were reunited on the ITV show Long-Lost Family, which brought about the discovery of another brother John Dowling.


Recently, it came to light that there may be a fourth sibling out there who was found in similar circumstances in Newry.

He was found by a man called Thomas Wylie in May 1963.

On Lunchtime Live, Helen said she was told she was adopted when she four or five.

"I always remember sitting up on my mother's knee, she giving me a big hug," she said.

"I suppose she was trying to explain it, but it was something I kept in my mind."

Helen recalls being at a funeral when she was seven or eight, and a cousin told her she was "the adopted child in the family."

"From then, that memory has stayed with me."

'Very emotional journey'

Helen said she decided to actually to look into it when she was 18.

"When I was about 18 I decided I'd confront my Dad, and he told me that all they knew was that I was adopted," she said.

"Basically he said, 'Helen just let sleeping dogs lie - we're your parents, we love you, leave it at that'".

Helen then went to Barnardos to try and get more information.

"From there I dipped my feet in and out because it is a very emotional journey and requires a lot thinking," she said.

"When my own children were born, I remember looking at my first-born Edel, and saying, 'Your grandmother - whoever she is, wherever she is, is missing out on the most beautiful little girl I just had'.

"I was two-days-old when I was left, that really had an impact on me".

Helen said when she went to get her files from a social worker she was told she was a "foundling", and was discovered in a phone box.

"I took in what she said about the phonebox, but I was so disappointed when I saw the birth certificate and it read: Child exposed on Lady's Well Terrace in Dundalk. No birth mother, no birth father.

"That's where it really started".

'My hand-made dress'

Helen said it took her time to absorb it all, but the social worker also helped by setting the scene.

"'Your mum must have been very desperate, placed you in the phone box but look at how she has done it.

"'She has dressed you really well, put you on blankets, wrapped you up with a beautiful little blanket'.

"I was actually in a beautiful hand-made dress that particular day going off on my journey and there was a warm bottle beside me.

"Where I was placed was Lady's Well Terrace in Dundalk, so it was close to the hospital.

"So it wasn't just abandoned, so to speak, they thought about where they were going to place us".

Helen took a DNA test on her 50th birthday and ultimately discovered she had a brother, David.

David McBride, who was found in a car in Dunmurry, was brought up just outside of Belfast and was fostered for a number of years by the family who adopted him.

"I became aware of the background to me being a foundling when I went to Belfast get a birth certificate and I couldn't get one," he said.

"I was told, 'You can get an adoption certificate... when I picked up my adoption certificate it said date of birth 'on or about' and it father and mother unknown and place of birth unknown.

"At that point my father explained everything to me.

"I really didn't think much about it at that point in time because I'd such a happy upbringing."

David said he put it to the back of his mind until 2002, when he got a phone call from the BBC who wanted to do a documentary on foundlings.

"I ended up doing a documentary in 2003 about foundlings but it never materialised," he said.

"In between 2003 and 2019 I'd been approached to have chapter written about me in a book.

"Then in 2019 my old sister called me up and said, 'I've just watched Long-Lost Family programme and they've done the first one on DNA'".

David did the DNA test and subsequently found out about Helen as his sibling.

Meeting each other

Helen recalls when she met David for the first time.

"It was in a room in the hotel up in Carlingford," she said.

"I walked into the room, I remember just seeing him there and giving him a big, big hug.

"I know we wee surrounded by cameras, we sat down and everything in the room just disappeared but the two of us.

"I think the camera crew let us chat for two hours... it was like as if you haven't met your friend for years and you just want to catch up," she added.

David said he felt a connection straight away.

"The strange thing about it was I felt very protective towards Helen from the first time I met her," he said.

"I'm the oldest one, so I felt very protractive towards Helen - Helen was '68, I was '62.

"Even from the first time we met there was that feeling of, 'This is my wee sister, I have to look after her'.

"I found that a little bit strange considering I'd never know about Helen," he added.

They compared photographs of their own family members who looked very alike.

In 2021, the Long-Lost Family show made the discovery of another sibling, John Dowling, who was left in a phone box in Drogheda.

Listen back here:

Anyone who may have information on a fourth sibling can email

Main image: Helen Ward in Newstalk studios. Image: Newstalk

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David McBride Dundalk Dunmurry Foundling Helen Ward John Dowling Lady's Well Terrace Link In Bio Long-Lost Family Long-lost Sibling Lunchtime Live

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