How could mum give me up That’s the question this adopted girl had been asking for almost 40 years – until a tear-jerking TV show tracked down the answer
23:42 GMT, 13 April 2012
Anne Clegg took great care in selecting her Mother’s Day card this year. She paused for what seemed like an eternity, read the different messages, studied the pictures and finally chose one that read, ‘For Mum, with Love.’
It was a gesture that left her mother, Janet Cullen, in tears of joy. Because it was the first Mother’s Day 48-year-old Anne and 65-year-old Janet had ever shared.
Torn apart in 1963 when Anne was a six-week-old baby and Janet a besotted 16-year-old single mother who was forced to give up her child for adoption, they finally found each other thanks to a truly remarkable television show.
Anne Clegg with her adoptive brother Peter
Long Lost Family, presented by Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall, is a series devoted to tracking down loved ones separated under the cruellest of circumstances. More than 5,000 viewers each year apply for the programme’s expert help.
Their stories are often achingly moving, as in the case of Janet, who became pregnant as a teenager in an unforgiving 1960s Britain. ‘I’d been dating a builder for two years, and when I became pregnant he wanted to get married but our parents ended it,’ says Janet, who now lives in Southport, Merseyside.
‘I was sent to a mother and baby home to wait for the birth. I was absolutely terrified, but I still longed for a baby girl. When she was born, I was hit by the most overwhelming love. She was absolutely perfect – her little face and tiny fingers and toes and her sweet baby smell. I called her Kerry-Anne and I breastfed her, dressed her and adored her. Then, when she was six weeks old, I had to hand her over for adoption.
Anne (right) reunited with her mother Janet Cullen
‘I was given five minutes to say my goodbyes. Those last moments have stayed with me all my life. I hugged her tightly and said, “Mummy loves you so, so much. I just can’t give you the life you need.” It was as if part of my own body had been ripped from me.
‘I married and had three daughters of my own, but it was only when I married my second husband Michael that I finally told him and my daughters about Kerry-Anne. Each year, on Kerry-Anne’s birthday, 18 August, I felt as if my heart would break. I prayed she would come looking for me. But I couldn’t search for her because she might not know she was adopted.’
More than 200 miles away in Basildon, Essex, Kerry-Anne – who had been renamed Anne – was enjoying an idyllic childhood with her adoptive parents, Edith and Arthur. ‘I didn’t have a clue I was adopted until I was 11 and somebody at school asked why I was blonde and my brother Peter dark,’ says Anne. ‘I mentioned it to my mum, and that night my parents told me. From then on I started wondering why my mother had given me up.’
I was given five minutes to say my
goodbyes. Those last moments have stayed with me all my life. I hugged
her tightly and said, “Mummy loves you”
Anne married and went on to have three children. But after the break-up of her marriage and the deaths of her beloved adoptive parents, she hit an all-time low. ‘I felt so alone,’ she says, ‘and I was desperate to find out more about my real mother. I went to see social services and they gave me details about my adoption. It said my mother had breastfed me until I was six weeks old. When they told me that, I sobbed like a child. I thought, “She did love me.”
Anne attempted to trace Janet without success. But then Anne’s daughter Amber applied to Long Lost Family. ‘When they said Davina was popping in to meet me, I didn’t think twice. They filmed us chatting, then suddenly Davina said, “We’ve found your birth mother.” I was so shocked I couldn’t breathe. The camera crew thought I was going to pass out. Davina said she had a letter from my mum, and I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest.
‘Then they said my mother was in a hotel, and we were going to meet tomorrow. When I saw her for the first time, I just ran into her arms and we bonded in an instant. Neither of us could let go. We’d found each other at last – and we didn’t want to ever lose each other again.’
Janet still sobs at the memory of holding her child again. ‘Hugging Anne all these years later was the best feeling in the world. She said she’d waited all her life for this – but so had I. Now we’ve seen each other several times, and we’re in touch every day. There’s 48 years of catching up to do.’ n
Long Lost Family is on Thursdays at 9pm on ITV1.