Sunday 25 February 2018

Batman was my dad: Amazing tale of Irish boy taken in by Michael Keaton during the Troubles

Michael Keaton played Batman in the 1989 film
Michael Keaton played Batman in the 1989 film

Claire Williamson

Most people can only dream of having a superhero as their dad - but one child from Belfast was 'adopted' by caped crusader Batman.

Ten-year-old James Dawson from west Belfast lived with actor Michael Keaton over seven years during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

It was part of a charity scheme called Project Children which paired US couples with children from Northern Ireland.

It was in a bid to give young people in troubled areas an alternative perspective.

The kind-hearted American families took the children in for six weeks over the summer in the scheme which began at the height of the Troubles in 1975.

But while the youngster was only supposed to stay with the Batman star for a number of weeks - he ended up going back and forth for seven years where he lived a glamorous life meeting famous faces such as Courteney Cox

Michael Keaton (AP)
Michael Keaton (AP)

Mr Dawson told the Sunday Times: "I was a youngster from a housing estate in west Belfast. Paramilitaries, conflict and terror were normal. Private planes, luxury mansions, hanging out with Batman and superstars on film sets was not."

He continued: "While the glamour was great, what mattered was that from day one I felt loved.

"Michael referred to himself as my American dad. He was a father figure to me. It is hard to explain how that strength transforms a 10-year-old child. Their kindness and openness stunned me."

Keaton and his ex-wife shared custody of their seven-year-old son Sean - who became best friends with James and was even the best man at his wedding.

Keaton also attended the ceremony but managed to remain anonymous.

James added: "He sat quietly at the back of the church, forever the gentleman."

As James returned year on year he said: "Everything made more sense; being a Protestant or Catholic became irrelevant."

"It was not just an individual act of kindness. They made me part of their family. I was a kid who felt hanging out with my favourite stars was normal - Danny DeVito, Andy Garcia, Geena Davis. Michael started dating Courteney Cox and I loved spending time with her.

"My life and perspective changed. When I first arrived I'd never once seen a different colour or race of people in real life."

Belfast Telegraph

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