Sunday 4 December 2016

Joy as two elderly brothers Frederick (78) and Jimmy (80) meet for the first time

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 24/08/2015 | 08:24

Frederick O'Donnell (78) accompanied by daughters Patricia (centre) and Theresa (right) meets elder brother Jimmy (80) for the very first time.
Frederick O'Donnell (78) accompanied by daughters Patricia (centre) and Theresa (right) meets elder brother Jimmy (80) for the very first time.

Two elderly brothers who lived nearly all their lives unaware of each other’s existence were overjoyed to meet for the first time.

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Frederick O’Donnell (78) and his brother Jimmy (80) were born in separate mother and baby homes in Dublin. Each brother believed he was an only child. However, they were united at an emotional meeting in England recently.

“It’s made my life,” Frederick told the Herald. “It goes to show that it’s never too late in anyone’s life for something new to happen.”

Their mother, Julia O’Donnell, from Eugene Street in Dublin, gave birth to her first son Jimmy in the Bethany Home in Rathgar in 1935. Jimmy was raised in an orphanage and he later emigrated to England.

Read more: After 80 years thinking he was an only child, Jimmy is ready to meet his long-lost brother

In 1937, she gave birth to Frederick in St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home in Dublin. When Frederick was 18-months-old, his mother entered the Magdalen Laundry in Cork City and the little boy was handed over by her family for fostering.

He was found begging in Dublin at the age of eight and a court ordered him to live in Artane Industrial School for eight years.

At 16 he left the school and, two years later, began five happy years living and working with the Ryan farming family in Oatfield, Templederry, Co Tipperary, who treated him as one of their family. He emigrated to England in his 20s, got married and had three children.

His daughter, Theresa, discovered that Julia had died aged 81 and her grave was among other former Magdalene laundry workers in Cork. She also discovered she had another son, Jimmy. Her appeal in the Herald to find Jimmy resulted in Finders International locating the elder brother in Cheltenham last month.

Read more: Chance Facebook encounter helps reunite siblings who were forced apart as children at end of World War II - brother sent to Ireland to be adopted while sister remained in Germany

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