Irish pensioner, 81, who grew up in an orphanage meets her 103-year-old mother for the first time

An Irish pensioner who was raised in an orphanage made a surprise visit to her 103-year-old mother when a genealogist tracked her down after a six-decade search.

Eileen Macken, 81, grew up in the Bethany Home orphanage in Dublin and knew nothing about her birth mother who had given her up for adoption as a child. 

But after a 61-year search, and a call to RTÉ’s Liveline programme, Ms Macken made a surprise visit to her birth mother, Elizabeth, who a genealogist had tracked to Scotland.

Eileen Macken, 81, grew up in the Bethany Home orphanage in Dublin and knew nothing about her birth mother who had given her up for adoption as a child (Pictured in April with her mother Elizabeth)

Eileen Macken, 81, grew up in the Bethany Home orphanage in Dublin and knew nothing about her birth mother who had given her up for adoption as a child (Pictured in April with her mother Elizabeth)

Eileen Macken, 81, grew up in the Bethany Home orphanage in Dublin and knew nothing about her birth mother who had given her up for adoption as a child (Pictured in April with her mother Elizabeth)

She said: ‘Once I heard that, nothing would stop me trying to get to see her.’

Ms Macken embarked on a trip with her family to visit Elizabeth, who turns 104 tomorrow, in April despite receiving no invitation to make the journey.

Her family were worried about making the trip uninvited, but Ms Macken was determined to meet her birth mother – who she was shocked is still alive. 

She told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘I went over to see her and she’s the most beautiful lady, lovely family, they gave me a great welcome.   

Ms Macken, who once described herself as 'Ireland's oldest orphan', began searching for her mother, Elizabeth, when she was just 19 and never gave up hope (Pictured aged two)

Ms Macken, who once described herself as 'Ireland's oldest orphan', began searching for her mother, Elizabeth, when she was just 19 and never gave up hope (Pictured aged two)

Ms Macken, who once described herself as ‘Ireland’s oldest orphan’, began searching for her mother, Elizabeth, when she was just 19 and never gave up hope (Pictured aged two)

‘We came in and honestly, I haven’t got over the acceptance that I got because I was thinking, “This is terrible, what am I going to do?” But they accepted me and I had a great chat with my mother.

‘I know she’s my mum and I said it to her. “You know I’m your daughter” and she looked up at me and took my hand, we had a great chat. 

‘There was such a bond between the two of us, it was fantastic.’

The mother-of-three, who once described herself as ‘Ireland’s oldest orphan’, began searching for her mother, Elizabeth, when she was just 19 and never gave up hope of finding her. 

The mother-of-three, from Perrystown in Dublin, also discovered in the three-day trip that she has two half-brothers.

Last year, Ms Macken raised her plight on RTÉ's Liveline programme, and a genealogist tracked down her birth mother, Elizabeth, in Scotland

Last year, Ms Macken raised her plight on RTÉ's Liveline programme, and a genealogist tracked down her birth mother, Elizabeth, in Scotland

Last year, Ms Macken raised her plight on RTÉ’s Liveline programme, and a genealogist tracked down her birth mother, Elizabeth, in Scotland

Ms Macken embarked on a trip with her family to visit Elizabeth, who turns 104 tomorrow, in April despite receiving no invitation to make the journey (Pictured, Ms Macken at Dublin's Mount Jerome cemetery with a memorial to 222 babies who died at Bethany Home)

Ms Macken embarked on a trip with her family to visit Elizabeth, who turns 104 tomorrow, in April despite receiving no invitation to make the journey (Pictured, Ms Macken at Dublin's Mount Jerome cemetery with a memorial to 222 babies who died at Bethany Home)

Ms Macken embarked on a trip with her family to visit Elizabeth, who turns 104 tomorrow, in April despite receiving no invitation to make the journey (Pictured, Ms Macken at Dublin’s Mount Jerome cemetery with a memorial to 222 babies who died at Bethany Home)

When she knocked on the door, she was met by a man who turned out to be her half-brother.

She told Liveline: ‘I told him I was from Ireland and that I had found my mum here and could we come in to see her, and he said, “Certainly”.

‘She was reading the newspaper and when she saw me, I said we were from Ireland and she said, “I was born in Ireland”.

‘She was thrilled and she never let go of my hand. I don’t think I’ll ever come down out of the cloud.’

The Bethany mother and baby home in Dublin, which was run by Protestant clergy, was one of a number scrutinised by an Irish government-appointed Commission of Investigation.

These homes were generally institutions where women who became pregnant outside marriage gave birth. In the main, these babies were adopted. 

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