North Devon man reunited with the brother he never knew existed
While searching for his birth mother, Tony Smith never thought he would happen upon a brother who had remained a secret for the last half-a-century.
A NORTH Devon man is urging adopted children curious about their pasts to never give up searching – after being reunited with his own long-lost brother.
Tony Smith, who was adopted at three months old, told the Gazette he spent 12 years searching for his birth mother, only to find he had a brother he never knew existed.
The 57-year-old, who has lived in Bishops Tawton all his life, always knew he was adopted and was curious about his history.
He decided to try to find his birth mother and, knowing her last name and that she came from Cornwall, he and his wife Anita began a long and painstaking search.
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The couple scoured the Cornish phonebook, trying every household with the surname Medlin, before finally happening upon his birth mother’s brother.
“I dialled the number and spoke to them, and his wife told me my birth mother had passed away some months before,” said Tony.
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“They seemed a bit reluctant to talk to me about it, but I rang them back on Christmas Day and she said she was glad I’d called because she wanted to tell me something.”
It was then Tony was given the startling news that he had an older brother who had been adopted in Somerset.
He said: “I was completely shocked – I had spent my whole life searching for my birth mother and not even thinking I might have a brother too.”
Tony then began to work with social services in Barnstaple and eventually managed to locate 58-year-old Brian Harris, who was living in Burnham-on-Sea near Weston-super-Mare.
“We first communicated via the social worker who wrote to him,” explained Tony.
“The first time we spoke on the phone he was in complete shock.
“He knew he was adopted but although he had sometimes been curious he’d never tried to track down our birth mother and didn’t know I existed either.”
Last year the brothers, who only have 18 months between them, met for the first time.
“I was in bits when we met, and he was very quiet – it was emotional but now we are trying to make up for lost time and get to know each other.”
Ironically, the pair discovered that Brian often holidayed at nearby Eastleigh, and Tony’s son spent some time working in Cheddar, just eight miles down the road from Brian.
Brian, who works for his local town council, said it was after their first meeting that it really sunk in.
“It was a massive shock really – I’d always wondered about my family but never thought about a brother or sister,” he said.
“I only wish that we had met each other sooner.
“We’ve spent many hours talking about family and it’s only sparked my curiosity to find out if there are any other relatives out there.”
Tony said he hopes their experience will help to inspire others.
“I remember always watching Surprise Surprise and wishing it was me being reunited with my long-lost family,” he said.
“Obviously I do still wonder what it would have been like if I had met my birth mother, but I never thought I would find a brother I never knew about.
“It has been a long, hard road, but I just hope my story will inspire people to never give up.”