READERS’ STORIES: Marjorie’s Lucky Break

lady with laptop

By David Hall

Marjorie eased the mouse over one of the lines of text on her screen and clicked. The page opened and she examined it with interest.

Leaving that page she called up one she had previously looked at. When that opened she called her husband. “Harold, come here. I’m puzzled.”

He entered the study, looked at the screen and grunted. “Not that again. Not still on that family tree site are you. Haven’t you done enough or do you intend to go all the way back to Adam?”

He turned to leave but she halted him. “This has me puzzled. Please will you look at these two entries for births?”

He pulled up a chair and eased his frame into it, leaning sideways so that he could see the pages.

“But that’s just the details of your birth,” he muttered. “You’ve looked at that hundreds of times.”

He stood to leave when she stopped him.

“That’s true. Now look at the other page.”

She clicked the mouse again and the entry appeared. “Look at this,” she said.

Bored, he leaned forward, feeling he ought to give some encouragement. After all, it was her consuming interest and in a few months it would be something else. But he stopped, and stared, his lips moving as he read the entry to himself.

“But that’s a boy born named Colin born on the same day as you to your mother. It must be a twin. You must have a twin.”

“Exactly,” she replied. “My mother gave me away at birth. I was adopted and never knew her. In fact, she died before I discovered who she was. But this seems to indicate, as you say, that I was a twin. I had a brother.”

lady with laptop

They both looked from page to page, confirming their conclusion. Marjorie had a twin brother whom she did not know.

Her interest in genealogy had been sparked when Jean and George Fowler, who had adopted her when she was a few weeks old, had died in a car accident a year ago. Among the papers in George’s desk was a document indicating her adoption and giving her mother’s name, Jane Richardson. It made no mention of any other relatives and since that time she had spent hours on various genealogy websites researching.

She had managed to find out that her father, who had died at Dunkirk during the Second World War, had been a dentist before the Royal Air Force had taken himand cost him his life as he tried to defend the armada of boats rescuing British troops from the Belgian coast.

But because she had been born only a week before her father’s death – in fact he had never seen his daughter – and census results are not revealed for 100 years, it would not be until 2041 that she could refer to the first census in which she might be named.

She had already resigned herself to forgiving her mother, noting that other documents she found indicated that the mother had taken years to get over the death of her husband, and some pointed to serious financial problems.

But the birth and deaths records now revealed a secret she did not know. Far from being the only child, she had a brother. Whether he was still alive was another matter but it was worth investigating.

For the next few months she almost lived on her computer or in the local library in Burnley, checking anyone with the name Richardson, and always with the knowledge that over the intervening 74 years her brother could have moved anywhere, or even been adopted as she had been. In that case, he would have a different name.

Harold tried to persuade her to forget it and, in his words, “get your life back,” but she refused. It became an obsession. When she was not in the library she was studying documents in other establishments – even planning a week in London, poring over copies of their local newspapers in the British Newspaper Library in Colindale, which she considered easier than using the microfiche machine in the local library.

It was the following week, while in London, that the accident happened. She was crossing the road when a taxi clipped her leg. The vehicle drove on, but she lay crumpled in the road until a passer-by rushed to her rescue, almost carrying her to the safety of the pavement.

He knelt by her and explained that her leg appeared to be broken and she needed hospital treatment. Old as he was, he had a mobile phone and called the emergency services. As he spoke she realised he must be a doctor.

Marjorie was rushed to hospital by ambulance while the leg was examined, X-rayed, and declared to be broken. “Lucky your hip wasn’t broken – that would have been much more serious,” the specialist commented. “As it is, you’ll be all right to go home in a couple of days, once the physio has got you walking with a crutch.”

It was three days later as she was struggling to walk along one of the hospital corridors, with a physiotherapist holding her arm and directing the use of the crutch, that the man who had rescued her appeared at her side, carrying a bunch of roses.

“I thought I would bring you these, knowing that you are nowhere near home and would probably not get any visitors,” he explained after she had struggled back to the ward and sunk into a bed-side chair.

“Oh, that is kind. My husband is coming tomorrow when I hope he can take me home.”

The two chatted for a few minutes before the visitor suddenly remarked: “By the way, my name is Geoffrey. I just realised I have not mentioned it before. I live nearby. It was fortunate that I was shopping when you had your accident.

“The police, by the way, have not managed to identify the taxi driver. No-one got his number. But at least you are not any more seriously hurt.”

She looked at him and smiled. “You are so kind. I have been very lucky.”

As they talked, Geoffrey asked why she was in London and Marjorie blurted out the story. He sat, listening carefully, occasionally taking her hand when she became too overwrought.

“My husband told me it had become an obsession and would make me ill. But I don’t think even he foresaw this,” she said at last, nodding at the plaster on her leg.

As Geoffrey prepared to leave she made a request. “I might be a silly 74-year-old but I have never had a plaster cast before. Would you sign it, I always remember friends doing that and feeling rather left out because I never seemed to break anything.”

Geoffrey smiled, reached into his pocket and took out a ballpoint pen. He leaned down and scratched his signature on the plaster with a flourish. “You will have difficulty reading it,” he laughed. “We doctors are notorious for having poor handwriting.”

She looked, gasped, and replied: “No, I can read it perfectly – Geoffrey Richardson. That’s amazing. It’s the surname I have been researching for the last six months without success.”

Geoffrey admitted it was an amazing coincidence and the pair shared details of other coincidences before Geoffrey finally left, but not before getting Marjorie’s address – “just to make sure you heal properly.”

It was a week after Marjorie’s husband had collected her and driven her back to Lancashire that she decided not to progress her research.

“Some things are better left,” said Harold. Marjorie agreed, poking a knitting needle inside the plaster cast to ease an itch.

Their conversation was interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Harold shuffled off to answer it.

Marjorie listened as a muffled conversation went on before Harold returned, bringing with him a smiling Geoffrey.

“You are looking a lot better already,” he grinned. “How’s the walking?”

Harold stood back, a smile on his face, as Marjorie greeted her visitor.

“Don’t stand,” he called, as she made a feeble effort to do so.

“But what brings you all the way to the far north?” she asked, turning to Harold and explaining: “This is the kind man who rescued me in London and visited me in hospital.”

“Yes,” Harold replied, “Geoffrey introduced himself at the door.”

Geoffrey, who looked as if his face would crack with the extent of his smile, interrupted: “I have someone who wants to meet you. Please excuse me while I go to the car and get him. I had to make sure this was the correct house first.”

Seconds later he reappeared with the other man – older but with similar features.

“This is my father,” Geoffrey pointed out. “His name is Colin – and I think you probably met him once before – but a long while ago.”

Marjorie and Colin stared at easy other and then they fell into each other’s arms, Colin reaching down as Marjorie struggled to her feet, tears pouring from her eyes.

“I didn’t dare say anything in the hospital in case I had got things wrong,” Geoffrey explained. “But I knew my father’s story, and it tallied with yours but I had to talk to him first.”

Colin reached into his pocket and brought out a sepia photograph. “That is our mother,” he said. “Times were so hard when I was young. Our house was bombed and, because of the loss of our father we had little money.

“Mum often talked about you and I often heard her crying at night saying your name. She always bitterly regretted having you adopted but she was so fraught after dad’s death that she didn’t really know what she was doing. I think she only kept me because girls were easier to have adopted.”

Marjorie looked at her brother, and then her nephew, and tears flowed again.

Harold looked on, chuckled to himself, and said: “Well, who’s for a cup of tea? At last you’re together again,” as he went to put on the kettle.

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