Sisters are doing it for themselves: Reunited family launches new business in Outwell
A new business set to launch in Fenland on Friday is a dream come true for a family once divided by adoption.
Dress 4 Less 2, which is set to open in the former Bloom and Wake premises in Outwell, is being launched by three sisters, the oldest of whom was adopted from the village as a baby in 1969.
Mandy Oldroyd, who lives in West Yorkshire, always knew she was adopted but the love of her adopted family, which included four older brothers, meant she was never really bothered about finding her birth family.
But her birth mother Pat Ward, who was forced to give away her baby as a single mum in the Sixties, always hoped to be reunited with her daughter and left a paper trail to make it easy for Mandy to track her down.
Pat said: “I always hoped I could keep her. I took months to agree to sign the adoption papers – it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. So, every time I moved or when I married I left the details with Somerset House so if my daughter wanted to find me she would be able to trace me easily. I was convinced she would turn up at my door on her 18th birthday, but she didn’t. Then I thought it would happen on her 21st and again I was disappointed.
“I never gave up hope. I contacted Norcap, an intermediary agency who forwarded my letters to the last-known address of Mandy’s adopted family. I heard nothing, so I sent a second and, again, nothing.
“Normally after two letters they call a halt to sending any more correspondence, but I begged them to send a third letter and my two other daughters, who have always known about their older sister, also wrote.”
Mandy, now 50 and with a daughter of her own, 16-year-old Isabelle, takes up the story.
“The letters were sent to my adopted mum, who coincidentally is also called Pat. But they arrived when my dad was seriously ill and dying of cancer, and she didn’t want to say anything because the time wasn’t right. In fact all the letters arrived at times when things were rough.
“Then17 years ago my mum decided to talk with me about the letters. She had lost her sister and I think it made her think. I wasn’t interested in meeting my birth mum, I was happy, but my mum talked about how she had always thought of the other woman and the sacrifice she made.
“She said they’re looking for you, this woman gave me the most precious gift and she wants to find you. I must admit I was worried, because once you open that door, you can’t go back. But we did finally meet.
“Now I come to Outwell for holidays with my daughter and stay with my sisters. We are very close, and my mum and Pat are friends.”
Pat adds: “Mandy’s adopted mum always tells me she was only ever looking after her for me, that she was always mine, which is a wonderful thing to say. It is lovely to know that Mandy had a fantastic childhood growing up with four older brothers and two parents who loved her.”
The family reunion happened on Pat’s mum’s 85th birthday. Growing up Mandy did not have any grandparents, so she was delighted to have a nan in Babs Russell.
“We met on her 85th birthday and I had her for nine years before she died. It would have been her birthday this Friday and it’s 17 years to the day since I was reunited with Pat and my sisters, Vik French and Toni Clark, so we thought it was the appropriate day to open our new business together.
“I already own a shop, Dress 4 Less in Yorkshire, and it has always been my sisters’ dream to run a shop so, when the premises became available, we thought we’d go for it. I’m sure Nan would be proud it is opening on her birthday.”