Horseheath woman finds family after 30 year search

The Phillips family holding a family reunion after 25 years of searching public records, held at the Village Hall in Horseheath. ANL-151204-202053009
The Phillips family holding a family reunion after 25 years of searching public records, held at the Village Hall in Horseheath. ANL-151204-202053009

After being evacuated to escape the Blitz and being orphaned after a TB outbreak, a Horseheath woman has been reunited with family members she thought she’d never see.

Lilian Hale, 78, got together with about 35 members of family on Saturday.

Mrs Hale lost touch with her father’s side of the family when she returned to London from having been evacuated to Wales during the Second World war – only to be orphaned as her mother, father and brother all died from tuberculosis.

She said: “I was evacuated to Wales. I went to a place called Blaengwynfi. I was one of those kids at the railway station you see in pictures, with the gas masks and suitcases.

“When I got back, I was packed off again, to Cockleford. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was so I wouldn’t catch TB.”

Mrs Hale’s father had died of the disease in 1941. Her mother was to follow in 1947 and, then, her brother in 1949.

Mrs Hale has spent nearly 30 years searching through public records for details of her father’s relatives after a friend of hers expressed disbelief that they had lost touch.

“We started off on the computer in the 1980s,” said Mrs Hale. “Back then, it took a long time, you had to go through the records year by year.

“In the last couple of years, it’s all got a lot easier. Last year, I was able to get in touch with some of them.”

The reunion was held in Horseheath Hall.

“It was absolutely amazing,” Mrs Hale said. “It wasn’t so much the number of people there, it was that, all of a sudden, I just belonged.

“It was an emotional thing. They all loved the fact I looked so much like their family.”

The family plans to stay in touch. One member, who now lives in Australia, was unable to attend, but Mrs Hale plans to speak to her via Skype.

“We will be planning more events,” said Mrs Hale. “They said we have to keep in contact because I’ve missed out on 75 years of family life.

“My life hasn’t been hard and I don’t think of myself as a victim. It’s just lovely to make contact.”