Monday 19 March 2018

Search for dad leads Maureen to Wicklow

Maureen Watts is now 80 and has been looking for her father for the past 26 years
Maureen Watts is now 80 and has been looking for her father for the past 26 years

Myles Buchanan

AN 80-year-old woman living in Australia is seeking help in finding out who her real father was after discovering her mother was from Baltinglass.

Since the age of 54, Maureen Watts has been trying to find out the identity of her father.

It was a full 26 years ago when Maureen learnt that the woman she considered to be her adoptive mother's sister was, in fact, her birth mother, Helen Cooke, the former postmistress of Baltinglass.

'My mother and her sisters took their secret to their graves. I am now 80 and do not want to take it to mine without being able to tell my children who their grandfather was, and their children's great-grandfather.'

Maureen was adopted into the Cooke family of nine children from an orphanage in the south of England in 1941 during the war. She was aged 8.

She immigrated to Australia at the age of 27 to work as a nurse. She married Alan in 1963 and had three children, one son and two daughters. However, she still remained close to her adoptive mother, Dr. Jessie Cooke and the rest of the Cooke clan.

'After I was married, five of the Cooke sisters, all in their 70s, emigrated to be near my family, including my adoptive mother. After a few years, I nursed them and buried them one after the other, the last one in 1984.'

After their passing, Maureen decided to try and search for her real mother and father. Her adoptive mother had always told Maureen that her father had died of pneumonia and her mother was killed in an air raid shelter. However, strangely Jessie had told friends that they were both killed in a car accident.

'I then decided to source my birth certificate, as the one I had only showed that I was adopted,' said Maureen.

'I contacted Somerset House in London. They had no knowledge of me. Since I was born in Scotland I tried there and was lucky they had my birth certificate. It showed that my mother's name was Helen Cooke, 'Father unknown' and that my date of birth was November 11, 1933. Helen had left Ireland to have her baby, then returned to Ireland after 13 months, leaving the baby (me) into an orphanage after I had been fostered for some time. I found out at the age of 54 that Helen was my biological mother.'

In February this year, the Irish Independent magazine published an article written by Dermot Bolger called 'Secrets of a Small Town Postmistress'. The article made reference to Maureen being the daughter of the late Helen 'Nellie' Cooke. Helen made national headlines in the 1950s during what is now known as 'The Battle of Baltinglass'. She received nationwide support after a blatant act of cronyism saw her lose her position as postmistress to a Minister's supporter.

After the publication of the article in February, a source came forward to Maureen and offered credible information on who her father might be. She would like get in touch with that source.

'There have been a few contacts since the release of the article but they don't want to give their name. If they would contact me, it will remain confidential and I will reply to emails received.'

Maureen was passed on the news that an anonymous person had said they wanted to suggest something to her which could assist in the search for who her father was.

'If you are that person, please contact me as every bit of information will lead closer to the truth,' pleaded Maureen. 'I am sure now I know who my father was, but unfortunately, unless I get 100 per cent proof, it will remain in the family and his family will never know his daughter's family. I think this would be very sad.'

If anyone can fill in the gaps they can email Maureen at:

Wicklow People