Theresa Tinggal reckons the way she was handed over to Kathleen and husband Jimmy – the man she called Dad – was a form of child trafficking
For nearly five decades Theresa Tinggal felt like the odd one out in her family – but had no idea why, reveals the Sunday People.
Then a remark by an uncle led to a harrowing revelation. She had been illegally adopted when she was just two days old.
Shockingly, an official document recorded £45 changed hands as tiny Theresa was handed over in “good” condition.
The secret trade was done by a doctor and a midwife.
And just over a month later her new parents registered Theresa as their own child who had been baptised by a Catholic priest.
Theresa was 48 and a mother of two before her mum Kathleen Hiney admitted to what happened in Dublin in 1954.
And it took a long, bitter battle with the Irish government before they gave teacher Theresa any official papers – including the jaw-dropping form we reproduce on the opposite page.
Theresa said: “I want to know who I really am.
“I don’t even know my real name for sure. I don’t know who my birth mother is and I don’t know where I was born.
“The life I had spent nearly five decades building up was shattered when I learnt the truth.
“I feel I’ve lived a lie – and was lied to all my life.”
Theresa, who is now divorced and lives in Bournemouth, reckons the way she was handed over to Kathleen and husband Jimmy – the man she called Dad – was a form of child trafficking.
She said: “I was sold for £45.
“The doctor said it was for my mum to buy a pram but that was a lot of money back then to buy even the most luxurious pram.
“I know of another woman who was handed over for £100, so she was worth more than me.”
Theresa always had a difficult relationship with her mum and finally they stopped talking.
But after 20 years she decided to bury the hatchet.
In 2002 she rang an uncle and announced: “I’m flying to Dublin tomorrow to see Mum.
“I need to know why she’s like she is with me.”
The uncle began to cry and blurted out: “She has to tell you the truth.”
When Theresa pressed him he added: “You aren’t hers.”
Stunned Theresa rang her sister Bernie in Dublin to tell her.
But Bernie, 58 – who was fostered as a toddler by the Hineys but never adopted – said: “Oh God, who told you?”
It turned out she and their elder sister Margaret, 65 – who really is the Hineys’ child – had known since they were teenagers but had been sworn to secrecy.
Theresa said: “I was the only one in the whole family who was never told.”
She confronted Kathleen, who admitted it was true.
Theresa said: “A judge’s wife whose daughter was a social worker said a girl was giving birth soon in a mother-and-baby home and was Mum interested in having it.
“I was apparently born on June 9, 1954 but I don’t know where.
“Two days later my adopted mother got a message I was ready to collect.
“She went to the home of a maternity nurse, Una Doody.
“She and Mum took me to be baptised at an RC church.
“It says on my records Mum was given £45 by a doctor for ‘expenses to maintain the child’. It’s akin to being bought.
“Six weeks later the Hineys registered my birth and named themselves as parents.”
Theresa continued: “A few weeks before I learnt the truth I told a friend I felt so detached from Kathleen it was as if I didn’t come from her body.
“My mother didn’t cry when I first asked her about my birth.
“But I think over the years she’s realised the effect it’s had on me and she wrote me a short letter saying she was sorry for the hurt and pain she’d caused.
“I don’t blame her for taking me in. Even so, I resent her not telling me the truth.
“Now I want to find my birth mother – though I fear it may be impossible.”
It took her months to get any of the paperwork because despite a global outcry over forced adoptions – highlighted in the hit Judi Dench film Philomena – Irish people who were adopted have no legal right to their birth certificates or details about birth families.
Theresa said: “I’ve had to battle for the information I do have and I believe the state still has more but chooses not to reveal it because it’s ashamed of its past.”
Among the documents she has been sent so far is one revealing government officials knew about the illegal adoption.
Theresa – who has lived in the UK since she was 19 – said: “It seems my mother blurted out to social workers what she had done and the health board realised they had a duty to monitor me.
“They even tried once to find my real mother – but they had no joy.
Included in my file was an index card stating my birth mother was possibly called Bridget and I was called Margaret O’Grady.”
A report in November 1956 highlights how the health board found out about the way Theresa had been adopted.
It said: “Mrs Hiney admits she took this child of two days old from a Mrs Doody of Collins Avenue.
“She also admits she got £45 from Mrs Doody towards the maintenance of the infant.
“Mrs Hiney states she had the baby baptised and the birth of the infant registered in both her own and her husband’s name.
“In other words, the child is registered as the legitimate daughter of Mr and Mrs Hiney.”
Theresa later found out Doody ran a Dublin nursing home.
In 1972 Theresa turned 18 and her name was taken off the health board children’s register.
But an official noted: “Theresa doesn’t know she is not Mrs Hiney’s natural child.”
Theresa has written a poignant open letter to “my birth mother” in a last-ditch bid to find her.
It says: “I know it must have been difficult for you to have to hand over your baby but what choices did you have in the 50s… none?
It must have been heartbreaking for you. I know as I have two children of my own, grown up now, and two beautiful little granddaughters.
“I have been searching for you since I discovered I was adopted.
“I just want to know what happened to you and that you went on to have a happy life.
“I hope from the bottom of my heart that you did.”
But Theresa fears her quest may come to nothing.
She said: “If my real mother is alive, she will be old and I have no wish to upset her.
“All I want to know is who and where I come from.”
Theresa’s adoptive dad Jimmy died when she was 16 and Kathleen went on to marry husband No2 Phil McArdle.
Now 90, Kathleen is haunted by regret and anguish for not telling Theresa the truth.
She told the Sunday People: “What I did was illegal and it is something I will live with till the day I die.
“It was a terrible wrong, something I can’t undo, and my heart aches for Theresa’s hurt.
“When I took her to be baptised I could not bring her to the church without a parent’s name on the certificate.
“I’d had one child who was five by then and was desperate for another.
“When it never happened and someone I know told me about this baby, my maternal instinct overrode any anxiety I had about what I did.”
Featured photo: John Alevroyiannis / Sunday People
Today: Theresa Hiney at her house in Bournemouth
If you can help, you can contact Theresa at adoptedillegallyireland.com.
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To get a copy of Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists visit here.