'For 50 years I was Paddy, and now I was Andre'
The short letter from the Adoption Authority of Ireland arrived out of the blue in November 2012, the High Court heard.
Patrick Farrell read it with curiosity at his home in Tullow, Co Carlow. There was a matter that may be of interest to him and he might wish to make contact, it said.
He phoned the number given, but the lady would not discuss things on the phone.
A meeting was arranged at a hotel in Tullow. Then came the bombshell. "She told me I was adopted. Then she corrected herself and said I was illegally adopted," said Mr Farrell.
The magnitude of what he was being told took some time to sink in.
"I was over 50 years being Paddy Farrell and now I was Andre Donnelly," he said.
He wanted to get to the bottom of things. The lady from the authority suggested he write a letter to his birth mother, which she would deliver, and things went from there. Early the next year, he came face to face with Tressa Reeves, née Donnelly, in a room at the authority's offices in Dublin.
"I was warned when I went in there not to have any physical contact with my mother or to give out my address," he said.
So they sat across a table from each other for two hours. Contact details were shared outside afterwards.
The court heard he was now close to his birth family and had visited them several times in England.
The revelation also brought turmoil, though. Word got out and his two sons were taunted in school.
Mr Farrell said he was "preoccupied all the time" and "wasn't able to be a good father to the kids".
His mind was elsewhere and he felt he had to "pack in" his well-paid job in Dublin, where he was doing Luas construction works.
Life could have been very different for Mr Farrell.
Much of his evidence recounted horrific beatings he and his late adoptive mother Maeve received at the hands her husband, James Farrell, also deceased.
"My father was extremely violent," he said.
As a 12-year-old he needed 32 stitches to his leg after being beaten with part of a plough for wearing his Confirmation suit while playing in the yard. The injury was explained away as an accident.
Maeve Farrell doted on him and was his "buffer", but also hid the abuse. "She made up excuses for her own black eyes," he said.
When he was 15, a punch from his adoptive father knocked out two front teeth.
The court heard a teacher began asking questions and soon after he was pulled out of school to go work with James Farrell's construction firm.