Adopted man who grew up in Canada to meet birth mum in Ireland - for first time in 50 years
A man who has not seen his birth mother since he was adopted almost 50 years ago has finally tracked her down - and discovered a big Ireland family he never knew he had.
Laurence Douglas (49) is a chef at a restaurant in Orangeville in Ontario, Canada.
Rather fittingly, his wife Heather works at the Shamrock Cold Storage in Brampton, Ontario. Laurence - who was born in Lisburn - had always longed to locate his biological mother, but had been unable to find her.
Nifty detective work by Heather made the breakthrough that has changed their lives.
Heather said that Laurence had been searching adoption websites for years but because his mother doesn't use a computer, she had no way of knowing that he was out there looking for her.
Two weeks ago, Heather's luck changed.
"We knew Laurence's birth mum's name.
"I was looking around a heritage website called Geni, and I saw a name that I thought might be Karen's brother - Laurence's uncle.
"Goose is kind of an unusual name.
"I sent him an email and he replied, confirming that his sister was Laurence's mother - and she was more than happy that he'd made contact.
"Laurence's adoptive family emigrated to Canada when he was three.
"He grew up here in Ontario thinking he was an only child.
"He's now found out that he has seven brothers and sisters - six of them still living in Belfast."
Laurence's mother is now 67 and lives in Andersonstown in west Belfast.
Laurence himself is thrilled at the discovery - and at the prospect of finally meeting his mother - the woman he has longed to see for nearly 50 years.
Speaking from Canada last night, the father of two said: "I'm really excited about the whole thing.
"I really want to get back to Belfast to see my mum.
"I've been 50 years looking for her.
"Finally getting in touch with my mum has been a great, great experience."
There was another surprise in store for him.
His teenage kids Conner (19) and Taylor (17) have now set up a GoFundMe social media campaign to raise the plane fare for him to come to Belfast and be reunited with his mother.
Son Conner said on the GoFundMe appeal site: "My dad called her on Good Friday and we are going to be keeping in contact with her.
"My dad was so happy and cried at work when he found out the news about how we had his birth mum's number.
"He has always wanted this and now he has a real relationship with his mother and he couldn't be happier, and we couldn't be happier for him.
"It was a real miracle for our dad to find his birth mum and we just want him to be able to talk to her in person and meet all his siblings."
Conner said the Douglases weren't the richest family, and appealed for help to get Laurence to Northern Ireland as soon as possible to meet the family he never knew he had.
He added: "Please - it would be incredible if you could help my dad come face-to-face with his birth mum, we'd be eternally grateful!" Donations have already come in for the campaign to help Laurence make the trip back to Belfast.
"I only found out about this whole crowd-funding campaign on Thursday - my wife and kids had been keeping it a secret from me," Laurence said.
"I hope everything will work out."