Published: 00:01, 12 August 2014
Tears flowed across 500 miles for grandfather Allan Healy and his long-lost sister when they spoke to each other for the first time in 60 years.
The remarkable reunion by telephone between Mr Healy in Margate and his sister in Dundee, came about through the chance posting of an old snapshot on Facebook.
It followed a dogged and exhaustive three-year hunt to find his family, begun when Mr Healy, 67, of Balcomb Crescent, Millmead, started piecing together a family tree.
Unbeknown to him, his sister Margaret Mitchell had also been trying to trace him for some time from her Scottish home.
They had last seen each other when their parents separated when Mr Healy was only seven.
He had grown up in Plymouth.
When his parents divorced, Mr Healy and his older brother Stewart and gone into a Barnardo’s children’s home.
They had lost contact with Margaret, who had moved away with their mother Elizabeth.
The siblings spoke to each other for the first time a few days ago.
“My sister was crying, I was crying,” said Mr Healy. “It was very emotional.”
They are now preparing to meet face-to-face later this month.
Mr Healy’s hunt for his mother and sister had involved scouring records including birth and marriage certificates, the voting register and carrying out a census search.
When his trail took him to Scotland it became particularly challenging due to the stringent Scottish data protection laws.
One of the last photographs of the three of them taken together was recently sent to Mr Healy by a cousin in Plymouth. Mr Healy then made it his Facebook profile page picture.
His sister Margaret, who does not have her own Facebook account, had previously searched for her “little” brother on the networking site with the help of an acquaintance using their account.
She believed Mr Healy to still be in Plymouth and did not recognise, initially dismissing the “Allan Healy” located in Margate.
However, she recognised her family when her brother posted the siblings’ photograph.
She asked her Facebooking friend to make contact with Mr Healy and at first glance he nearly rejected the friend request from the unknown person.
“My sister was crying, I was crying. It was very emotional" - Allan Healy
Spotting that they lived in Dundee, where he believed his sister to be, he took the chance they might help him in piecing together the family jigsaw and accepted.
This crucial connection led at last to the emotional telephone call and he is now counting down the days until they meet again.
His mother Elizabeth, now 88, has Alzheimer’s and lives in a home in Dundee so Mr Healy is unsure if she will know him.
His father John, 90, still lives in Plymouth, while his brother is in Romford.
He is preparing for the trip north with his second wife Amanda, his daughter Elizabeth, her two children and possibly his son Wayne.
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