Irishman who was handed over as an orphan by nuns traces family after 60 years

Australian man finds Irish family after 80 years

An Australian man has finally ended his 60 year search for his Irish family.

Paddy Cannon had spent his entire life not knowing who his parents were, or where he came from.
Australian man finds Irish family after 80 years

Now, at the age of 80 he has met his relatives for the first time.

Paddy was sent to Australia when he was ten years old. He had been taken from his mother at just six weeks old, and given to the Sisters of Nazareth.

He was told that he was an orphan.

However, Paddy would not accept that he would never know who he was.

He felt great pride in his Irish heritage and was determined to find out the truth about his ancestry.

He began a lifelong search to find out about his family, and when he was 22 he discovered his mother’s name was Catherine.

She was an Irishwoman living in Wales and Paddy was conceived and born out of wedlock.

He was taken from Catherine and she returned to Ireland.

Catherine went on to marry a farmer in Mayo and have three more boys and three girls.

She died in the 1970s.

On the other side of the world Paddy was continuing his search for his family.

He struggled to find any leads because the authorities that took children from British and Irish orphanages and shipped them to Australia kept few records.

Paddy turned to the Child Migrants Trust charity for help. They put his DNA on an international database and eventually it was matched with one of Paddy’s relatives in America.

From there, Paddy was able to trace his family in Co Mayo, the Derrigs.

One of Paddy’s three brothers Michael was contacted by the charity. He said: “I felt like saying to her, you have the wrong house here. I couldn’t believe it.

“We asked her, would she have a photo of Paddy Cannon? She showed us his picture and as soon as we’d seen it, we said right away … ‘he’s definitely a Cannon’.”

Paddy added: “It was a shock for them and shock for me, but a happy shock.”

The family has since visited Paddy in his hometown in Australia. Brother John Joe described it as meeting an old friend. He said: “A little bit of a shock at the time.

“Mam had never told anyone so we didn’t know Paddy existed.

“But after 15, 20 minutes, you got that feeling that you knew him all your life.”

Paddy’s brother Michael admitted he felt hurt to know his mother had gone through the ordeal alone and never told anyone about it.

He said: “I feel sorry for her having to carry on. But they were the times.

“That’s the bit of hurt that I have about it. The rest is all good.”

Paddy’s relatives have welcomed him into the family with open arms. They even made the touching gesture of adding his name alongside all the other siblings on his mother’s headstone.

Paddy said: “When I spoke to the family at the grave site, I said to them. ‘Mum knows that we are together’.

“That’s given her peace in the next world.”

Paddy’s story is not a one-off. There were several children sent to Australia from Britain and Ireland who never knew their biological family.

Paddy was helped in his search by the staff at Tuart Place, a service that helps adults who grew up in out-of-home care.

Paddy himself helped set up the governing body of Tuart Place.

Director Philippa White was inspired by Paddy’s determination in his search.

She said: “He would say, ‘I’m going to find my family. I’m not giving up’.

“I wondered at times if it was the right thing to say to him, ‘Paddy, do you think you should maybe accept that perhaps you are not going to find family?’

“Just from a sort of therapeutic point of view — but I’m glad that I didn’t.

“Paddy is loved by his Tuart Place family because he is such a kind person and does so much for others.

“It’s really nice to see something great happen to Paddy.”

Paddy’s story is not unique, and many other people face long searches to find the truth about their genealogy.

Written by Andrew Moore