Long Lost Family – Episode 2 – Brenda and Joanne

Thursday, 19 April 2012, 9:00PM - 10:00PM

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Sixty-eight-year old Brenda moved to the South African sunshine seven years ago after retiring from a successful career working in banking. However, despite her seemingly idyllic life, Brenda has always been haunted by a decision she made as a teenager.

Brenda was just 19-years-old and living with her strict parents in Warrington, Cheshire, when she discovered she was pregnant. She tells Long Lost Family: “I actually was the prude of the group, I didn’t sleep around, I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t do what everyone else was doing. I really was totally naïve. It was the third time I had sex that I actually got pregnant with Joanne.

Her parents were angry and disappointed when she broke the news to them – making it clear she was a disgrace. Shunned by her family, Brenda moved to a mother and baby home in Manchester and when her baby daughter, Joanne, was just six weeks old she gave her up
for adoption.

In emotional scenes, Brenda explains how difficult the decision was
for her. She says: “I’d never ever felt like that about anything or anyone and I didn’t ever want to put her down. Silly things like counting her fingers and her toes, she was gorgeous.

She recalls the last time she saw her daughter: “I dressed her in a pretty dress, it took me about an hour to dress her and my father picked us up and took us to someplace in the middle of Manchester. I went into a room with her, this woman came in and took her and said, ‘You can go now.’ And that was it.”

Brenda tells the programme: “If you do ever find her, tell her how much I loved her and I so didn’t want to part with her and I did what I thought was right at the time.”

Shortly after the adoption, Brenda moved out and started a new life for herself, but she never recovered from the loss of Joanne.
She spent years trying to find her but because she didn’t know her daughter’s new identity, she was never successful.

Brenda tells the programme: “It’s entirely possible that she’s thinking, ‘well she didn’t want to know me, she gave me away.’ These days every child is told how much the mother wanted to keep them but I don’t think it was so in those days. I just need to put that straight.”

Nicky Campbell explains how Long Lost Family worked with an Adoption Support Agency to access Joanne’s new surname and, astonishingly, traced her to South Africa. Nicky goes to see her to
tell her that Brenda is looking for her.

Joanne tells Nicky: “I just thought I’d been born and then been pushed under the carpet. Maybe then she remarried, she got older and didn’t even tell anybody. I didn’t know that we’d been together for six weeks, how awful that must have been for her.”
Joanne was amazed to discover that her biological mother is now living in the same country as her.

She says: “So we both ended up in South Africa, that’s just so funny. These things happen for a reason, it’s like magnets, suddenly we’ve ended up in the same place.”

Long Lost Family arranges for the pair to meet in a park in Cape Town and there are emotional scenes as Brenda sees her daughter for the first time in over 45 years.

Afterwards, Brenda tells the programme: “I feel as if I’m twenty years old, all that pain, everything’s gone and I’m feeling as if we’re picking up where we left off, which is very healing.”